Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Resolving Inner Cultural Conflicts toward Education in Pastoral East Africa: A Grounded Theory Study

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Resolving Inner Cultural Conflicts toward Education in Pastoral East Africa: A Grounded Theory Study

Article excerpt

Pastoralists in East Africa have many different mother tongues. Their cultures are unique having developed independently for many generations. These are proud people. Whe7n some outsiders speak of education for rural tribes they convey the impression that this civilizing influence will make pastoralists better people. However, education is seen by some as a threat to traditional culture. The history of this region repeatedly speaks of domination by industrialized states and the use of education to both improve lives as well as train a labor force for exploitation. In spite of the latter, some see education as a means of moving toward a better life, an improved life. They see it as a natural extension of a progressive people, necessary to maintain a desirable place in this world. The problem addressed by this study was that, as Kratli (2001) reports, inadequate attention has been directed toward education and other development activities as they apply to specific community context. We were intrigued by this context that included perceptions of education held by pastoralists as well as the barriers they faced.

As researchers, we were, of course, aware of the arguments. Our interests led us to study the thoughts of those pastoralists who had made a commitment to being educated. The purpose of this grounded theory study was to explain the perceptions of semi-nomadic pastoralists in East Africa who self-identified as having the characteristics of the most vulnerable and who were educationally successful. Perhaps this research will be useful for individuals or organizations interested in education in East Africa, especially if interested in how to best support those struggling to be educationally successful.

We began our study with an interest in the barriers the most vulnerable students faced and how they overcame those barriers. Why were they so radically determined to be successful students, while most of their peers were not? Slowly, as we learned more through our research process, we refocused our study on one distinct population and reworked our guiding questions. What were the perceptions of those who self-identified as having the characteristics of the most vulnerable, were educationally successful, and who were from semi-nomadic pastoralist tribes? We knew they were resilient, but why were they resilient, and how was this resiliency manifested? What, if any, unique factors were involved?

For the purposes of this study, we are defining the vulnerable as those children who are at significant risk due to a variety of factors. This is discussed further in a following section of this paper. In addition, we are defining the educationally successful as those who successfully completed primary school, secondary school through Form 4, either Advanced level or Diploma level, and entered Year 1 ina university Bachelor's degree program (See Table 1 for clarification).

Barriers to Education of Rural Pastoralists in East Africa

Challenges of Orphaned and Vulnerable Children

Defining the concept of Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) seems to depend largely upon methods used to project future levels of vulnerability. This would include the social effects of the HIV and AIDS pandemic, as well as other factors. Regardless of the methods followed, most of the literature seems to utilize the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS definition where orphans tend to be defined as children under 18 years who have lost mother, father, or both parents (UNAIDS, UNICEF, & USAID, 2004). The same source tends to define vulnerable children as those whose safety, well-being, or development is at significant risk.

Such children can include children orphaned due to AIDS, children infected with HIV, children caring for terminally sick parents with AIDS, fostered children, children in poor households which have taken in orphans, disabled children, street children, children exposed to excessively hazardous labor, children involved in the sex industry, children affected by conflict, migrant children, and children out of school. …

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