Lenses from the margins: young schooling mothers' experiences in two high schools in Gauteng

Kimani, Wacango
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Listening to the voices of learners, also referred to as ‘student voice’, ‘pupil voice’ or ‘insider perspective’, is an aspect of inclusive education research that views learners as experts on their own lives, and provides insight into school subcultures that are relatively inaccessible to adults. This study listened to the voices of eleven young schooling mothers to find out the factors that help or hinder their successful completion of high school. A participatory methodology was used to listen to learners’ voices. The study’s model of inclusive research involved using a participatory approach in which the young schooling mothers assumed the role of co-researchers. The multiple data collection methods employed recognise the values of community, respect for diversity and belonging also enabled inclusive engagement by building on the participants' strengths and encouraged meaningful participation. I collected data using cellphone messaging, learners’ journals, interviews, focus group discussions and video interviews. The multiple opportunities provided to the learners to speak about their school experiences highlighted the efficacy of the methods and revealed the learners’ preferences. Data was analysed using phenomenography, an approach that identified the qualitatively different ways in which the experiences of the young schooling mothers could be understood. The study found that learner-managed methods (cell phone messaging, journaling and learners’ video interviews) provided unique and authentic perspectives into the young mothers’ private lives. The learners stated that they felt included in school by being involved in the research and by voicing their experiences of school as young schooling mothers. The young schooling mothers experienced school and schooling as rapidly changing experiences of inclusion, exclusion and marginalisation. The learners identified situations when they could be treated as both the same as, and different from other learners. Recommendations to ensure the learners successful completion of high school include a differentiated recognition of difference approach and a review of policy based on a non-judgmental construction of young motherhood.
A research report submitted to the School of Education, Faculty of Humanities in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education September 2014