The geographies of migrant learners in three South African schools : a narrative inquiry.
Nnadozie, Jude Ifeanyichukwu.
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In the recent times, migrants including significant numbers of African migrants have continued to enter South Africa. The high volume of immigrants into South Africa has attracted research attention. However, perhaps overlooked in research is inquiry into the migrant learner’s experience, in terms of what are the migrant learner’s schooling experience and how does it matter. In particular, focal attention is given in this study to the migrant learners from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe. Drawing on a qualitative research approach, and employing narrative inquiry methodology, this study explores the schooling experiences of migrant learners from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe in three schools in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Central to the inquiry in this research is the understanding of migrant learner experience of school as space and place in South Africa. The ways the migrant learner experience school as space and place is very much material to the quality of their overall schooling experience which in turn is consequential to the ways in which schools as space and place are constructed in the cultural economy of current South Africa.The study is situated within Social Constructionism and engages the New Sociology of Childhood and Children’s Geographies as the theoretical framework. The theoretical framework as well as the methodology employed in this study make provision for a critical engagement in the analysis of these experiences. The findings in this study reveal the factors that contribute to the schooling experiences of the study participants. Eight themes emerged from the data collected through the means of story account, open-ended interviews and photo voice by the participants. The themes unveil the challenges and limitations the study participants encounter as migrant learners in South Africa. Among the challenges and limitations experienced by the participants are issues of difficulty in gaining access to schooling in South Africa, lack of proper participation in school as a result of lack of proficiency in the use of the languages of instruction and communication in school, experiences of stereotypes about migrants in South Africa and the resulting xenophobic tendencies from some learners and some teachers in school, a sense of exclusion and isolation in school as a result of differences in identities and value systems with South African locals, cultural alienation in school as a result of differences between the way things are done in schools in South Africa and the way things are done in schools in home countries of the participants. On the other hand, findings of the study also reveal the opportunities the study participants have gained from schooling in South Africa, such as opportunities to interact with people from diverse backgrounds and the knowledge gained from such interactions, learning new cultures and languages as well as exposure to better learning resources which the study participants were not used to in their home countries. Based on the findings of this study, recommendations are made for the attention of education authorities, school authorities and educators, authorities in the Department of Home Affairs, authorities in charge of social development in South Africa and recommendations for further research.