A narrative inquiry into how children experience and negotiate race and race relations in their school spaces.
This study looked at how children at a de-segregated primary school in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, experience and negotiate race and race relations in their school spaces. A qualitative research design was used. The methodological approach of narrative inquiry was used to interpret the stories narrated by the child participants. Data was gathered from individual and focus group interviews involving two multiracial friendship groups. The sub-field of Children’s Geographies and new sociology of childhood or New Childhood Studies formed the conceptual and theoretical frameworks on which the study was founded. The five themes that emerged from the data analysis revolved around learners’ constructions of race and racial difference; learners’ experiences in the spaces of race relations in and out of the school; how children make sense of their identities and racial identities; and the fluid spaces of racial identity and learners’ views on promoting race relations. The study revealed that the participants used the social construction of race to categorise themselves. While the children, in their roles as social actors, claimed to have joined friendship groups that were multiracial and drew comfort from their companionship with members at school, they raised what they regarded as racial abuse on the part of their fellow learners and teachers. There was evidence also of power struggles between learners of the different race groups in the confines of their school spaces and this reportedly affected them socially, experientially and emotionally. The participants, in keeping with the philosophy of Children’s Geographies and New Childhood Studies, articulated their suggestions about how positive race relations can be promoted at their school. The study recommends that there should not be any complacence about the issue of race and race relations in our schools today, and that there should be more follow-up studies in a South African context to add to the growing body of research in this field in more developing countries.
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