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Gendered social relations among adolescents in a South African secondary school : the Greenvale case study.

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This dissertation incorporates a number of ethnographic case studies done within the qualitative paradigm from a feminist stance (Nielsen, 1995). It served to explore and understand the attributions and aspirations of adolescents in relation to their group association from their perspective. It was important that the voice of the adolescent emerged as central to the findings. The significance of individual freedom of choice as opposed to limited personal volition was also explored. Another aspect of the research problem was to try to establish adolescents' awareness, perceptions and beliefs of gender issues. Integral to the success of the research was honesty and ethics. Hence reflexivity was fundamental to continuous re-assessment of interpretation, an awareness of assumptions and manipulation, which could have occurred if the power relations between researcher and participants were not addressed. To ensure validation of the research findings triangulation-between and -within-methods was utilised. Hence a dynamic interaction among sociometric diagrams, participant observation, interviews, document analysis and photographs resulted. The research study incorporated the environs of Greenvale High School, whose multi-faceted dimensions of co-education, multi-culturalism, dual-medium and comprehensive curriculum, proved to be a boon to the nature of the research. I worked within the Grade 10 standard and ultimately isolated three groups and three "loners". The dimension of ethnicity emerged as pertinent to the study of two of the "loners" and it was therefore necessary to include a brief (if somewhat superficial) exploration of two Black girl groups. Contextualisation emerged as most signific4'lnt to the findings. The relationship of the groups to the learning environment and its significance in relation to the values and beliefs of the individuals within groups proved enlightening. Anomalies between gender beliefs and assertions and their actualisation were related to the individuals' experience of gender equality within the class situation, their awareness of gender inequality within the learning environment and their perception ofgender role perpetuation as unproblematic within the broader context of a patriarchal society. Hence this research advocates Hconsciousl1ess-raising" (Payne, in Spender and Sarah, 1988) so that issues regarded as unp1'oblematic, can be addressed in order to change the social order. Awareness can aid educationalists in formulating policy that will ensure that the learning environment can be made more worthwhile and meaningful to the Hmarginalised" adolescent. Methodologically, other researchers would benefit by replicating this study to pursue important aspects, which emerge from ethnographic case studies, particularly within a South African context compounded by race and gender.


Thesis (M.Ed.)-University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 1999.


Theses--Education., Sex differences in education--Kwazulu-Natal--Pietermaritzburg.