An asset-based approach to mitigating learner multiple vulnerabilities in Zimbabwean rural learning ecologies.
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The escalating number of learners facing multiple vulnerabilities globally has resulted in the holistic caring for such learners becoming one of the major challenges faced by societies today. Currently, in Zimbabwe, the major goal for supportive initiatives and developments is to meet the financial needs of such learners. Due to the political and socio-economic situation in Zimbabwe, there has been inability or lack of access to/resources by parents/guardians/service providers to ensure that such learners receive minimum basic services. Their resources and systems have been overwhelmed by the large number of learner multiple vulnerabilities. Following partial or complete withdrawal assistance by parents/guardians/service providers, individuals facing learner multiple vulnerabilities become disadvantaged, exposing them to further vulnerabilities. Learners facing learner multiple vulnerabilities then suffer because not all their needs are met. Facing multiple vulnerabilities, to some extent, contributes to them abandoning their studies or ending up in exploitative situations as a means of survival. The main aim of this study was to propose asset-based approaches to mitigating learner multiple vulnerabilities in Zimbabwean rural learning ecologies. The study included participants within Zimbabwean rural learning ecologies in proposing for an asset-based approach that was grounded in the local community. This gave voice to rural people through active participation and ensured emancipation, transformation, and empowerment by assisting them to find solutions to their problems. An eclectic mix of Complexity Theory (CT) and Asset-Based Approach (ABA) was utilised with the understanding that learner multiple vulnerabilities are a social challenge. This made it possible to implement the approach, and that individuals can claim ownership of the process. CT, in this study, emphasises wholes, relationships, open systems, and the use of the environment as tools for survival. The theory strived for a holistic change in learners that they may evolve and adapt within the same rural learning ecology. ABA was adopted to focus on local people having capacities, skills and social resources to attend to their problems, for the purpose of eliminating dependence syndrome in learners and achieving quality education in rural learning ecologies. Practically, this qualitative study presents how CT and ABA principles are integrated within Participatory Action Research (PAR) as design, Critical Emancipatory Research (CER) as paradigm, an approach that addresses issues of empowerment in contexts, inequality, oppression, alienation, power and transformation through collaborative engagement, for learners to take decision that make them survive in complex situations. Purposive sampling was utilised to identify participants. I used the focus group discussions (FGD), discussion meetings, document analysis, and participant observation to generate data. Ethical considerations were observed to guard against possible ethical predicaments, that we do not harm participants and our research be valid and reliable. Using Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), the researcher critically presented, analysed, and interpreted the written texts and spoken words combined with observed facial expression and data from analysed documents, and determined findings and implications from which the asset-based approach was formulated. The findings and conclusions of the study have proved that learner multiple vulnerabilities exist as multiple entities that affect learners in rural learning ecologies. Further highlighted is how issues of socio-economic instability, poverty, death/separation/divorce of parents/guardians, and cultural factors are root causes of learner multiple vulnerabilities. Consequently, engagement in transformative and participatory methods that embraced local communities’ capabilities formed the basis for holistic emancipation and empowerment. Furthermore, I noted that there are threats to the asset-based approach, such as donor syndrome and self-constructed philosophies. Based on findings and conclusions, I have suggested that further studies on the application of the approach should be done. Additionally, there is a need for active participation and total commitment from learners facing learner multiple vulnerabilities with potential assets and or stakeholders to find solutions to their problems. Furthermore, there is a need to collectively work together on the planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation (rather than on individual approaches), that holistically assist learners through sharing of experiences, knowledge, and skills on how to alleviate learner multiple vulnerabilities. This would leave learners empowered and transformed. These implications emancipate, transform, and empower those engaged in finding solutions to their problems.