Navigating their way : African migrant youth and their experiences of schooling in Cape Town

Foubister, Caroline Ann (2011-03)

Thesis (MEd)-- University of Stellenbosch, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Migration has been described as “the quintessential experience” of the contemporary period (Berger, 1984). Across the world this global phenomenon has been chiefly driven by conflict, persecution and poverty resulting from destabilisation in the various home countries of millions of individuals. Within the process of worldwide migration, South Africa receives perhaps the largest number of asylum seekers in the world and according to the UNHCR (2010) the majority of migrants entering South Africa are children or youth. Crucially, this increased migration into South Africa is occurring at a time when the majority of South Africa's general populace is still struggling with the aftermath of apartheid and increased levels of poverty and unemployment. In this qualitative, interpretative study I focus on how a group of 20 African migrant youth that live in Cape Town and attend one local school engage with the migratory experience and navigate their way through local receiving spaces. I assert that these spaces, which include both home and school, mark the youth in very particular ways and bring into focus key aspects of identity, culture, social worlds, imagination and aspiration. The main conceptual contribution of the thesis is the idea that we are all migrants in the current world, whether we physically move or whether our lives are moved by the impact of increasing global flows. Consequently, we need to develop, it is argued, a frame of thinking that makes the migrant central, not ancillary, to historical process. For that purpose I utilise the theoretical lenses of Pierre Bourdieu, Arjun Appadurai, and Tara Yosso to argue that the African migrant youth in the study are not passive recipients bombarded by the forces of globalization and migration, but are active agents in the shaping of their local realities. By linking individual biographies to the questions they raise about larger global, social and historical forces I attempt to offer a temporalized account of late-modern life that incorporates the contemporary conditions that the African migrant youth face as they navigate urban social arrangements, and the daily educational challenges of their local school. A further contribution of the thesis is the documenting of the particular internal and external resources that the 20 African migrant youth drew on to motivate and assist them to navigate their schooling and social lives, as they faced up to the growing uncertainties of their new "foreign‟ spaces.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Migrasie is al beskryf as “die wesenservaring” van die moderne tyd (Berger, 1984). Oral ter wêreld word hierdie globale verskynsel hoofsaaklik aangedryf deur konflik, vervolging en armoede wat die gevolg is van destabilisasie in die onderskeie lande van herkoms van miljoene mense. Binne die wêreldwye migrasieproses is Suid-Afrika die land wat waarskynlik die grootste getal asielsoekers ter wêreld ontvang, en volgens die Verenigde Nasies se hoëkommissaris vir vlugtelinge (UNHCR, 2010) vorm kinders of jeugdiges die grootste groep migrante wat Suid-Afrika binnekom. Wat van kardinale belang is, is dat hierdie toenemende migrasie na Suid-Afrika plaasvind op ʼn tydstip waarop die meerderheid van Suid-Afrika se breë bevolking steeds worstel met die nalatenskap van apartheid en verhoogde vlakke van armoede en werkloosheid. Hierdie kwalitatiewe, kwasi-interpretatiewe studie fokus op die wyse waarop ʼn groep van 20 jeugdige Afrika-migrante, wat in Kaapstad woon en dieselfde plaaslike skool bywoon, migrasie-ervarings hanteer en hulle weg deur die plaaslike ontvangsruimtes baan. Ek voer aan dat hierdie ruimtes, wat sowel die huis as die skool insluit, 'n baie duidelike stempel op jeugdiges laat en die aandag op sleutelaspekte van identiteit, kultuur, maatskaplike wêrelde, voorstellings en strewes vestig. Die hoof- konseptuele bydrae van die tesis is die gedagte dat ons almal in vandag se wêreld migrante (van welke aard ook al) is, of ons nou fisiek verskuif en of die impak van toenemende wêreldwye strominge verskuiwings in ons lewe veroorsaak. Daarom, word daar geredeneer, moet ons ʼn denkraamwerk ontwikkel wat die idee van die “migrant” sentraal tot die historiese proses stel, eerder as ondergeskik daaraan. Vir dié doel gebruik ek die teoretiese lense van Pierre Bourdieu, Arjun Appadurai en Tara Yosso om aan te voer dat die jeugdige Afrika-migrante in die studie nie passiewe ontvangers is wat deur die kragte van globalisering en migrasie rondgeslinger word nie, maar dat hulle aktiewe agente is wat hulle plaaslike werklikhede self kan vorm. Deur individuele lewensverhale te koppel aan die vrae wat dit oor groter globale, maatskaplike en historiese kragte laat ontstaan, bied ek ʼn getemporaliseerde weergawe van die laat-moderne lewe, met inbegrip van die eietydse omstandighede wat jeugdige Afrika-migrante in die gesig staar namate hulle hul weg deur die stedelik-maatskaplike organisasie moet vind, asook van die daaglikse opvoedkundige uitdagings van hulle plaaslike skool. Verder lewer hierdie tesis ʼn bydrae deur die interne en eksterne hulpbronne te dokumenteer wat hierdie 20 jeugdige Afrika-migrante gebruik het om hulle te motiveer en te help om hulle skool- en maatskaplike lewe te rig namate hulle die toenemende onsekerhede van hulle nuwe, “uitlandse” ruimtes moes aandurf.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/6691
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