Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Articulating Cultures: Socio-Cultural Experiences of Black Female Immigrant Students in South African Schools1

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Articulating Cultures: Socio-Cultural Experiences of Black Female Immigrant Students in South African Schools1

Article excerpt

Abstract

Contests of space and place in South African 'schoolscapes'2 are now not so much about 'race' as it is about nationalism and territoriality. While the politics of belonging unfolds and overtly manifests itself, a more covert, insidious and worrisome issue is that of the erosion of the social and cultural mores of Black immigrant students. Utilising social constructivism, case study approach and narrative inquiry, this study sets out to explore the socio-cultural experiences of Black female immigrant students in South African schools. It was found that the socio-cultural context of South African 'schoolscapes' represented a site of contamination and shame; was marred by conflict and contained elements that worked towards the erosion of cultural and social mores of Black female immigrant students.

Keywords: Immigrant students; socio-cultural; migration; xenophobia; schoolscape

Introduction

The future of any country is vested in its youth. Youth are not only the future leaders and future constituents of the adult society of a country, they are also the cultural custodians entrusted with upholding cultural values and norms and continuing the cultural customs and traditions of a particular culture, associated with a particular geographic, social and political space and territory. The caregiver nurturing role of culture in terms of these customs and traditions in some cultures, particularly cultures in the Southern African Developing Community (SADC) have been vested in the hands of females. What happens in the case of transnational female youth who are uprooted from their home country and now find themselves in a new host country? How do they experience the disparate cultural streams each with its own unique cultural and moral codes of conduct, and dress? Do they experience a sense of cultural conflict or consensus? How do they identify and what implications do this hold in terms of their role as custodians of their culture? How do they balance the tightrope of maintaining their culture of origin while at the same time seeking a sense of belonging and acceptance in the host country? How do they remain true to their country of origin that has vested interests in its youth?

The advent of democracy in South Africa has witnessed an increasing number of Black immigrant students' entry into South African schools. The early years of democracy was marked by a trend that fixated on Black and White dynamics as an increasing number of Black indigenous students entered former white schools. Much research sought to capture this dynamic. Seventeen years of democracy has seen a notable shift in this debate in the form of a new dynamic unfolding at schools namely, that of Black immigrant students. Contests of space and place are now not so much about 'race' as it is about nationalism and territoriality. While the politics of belonging unfolds and manifests itself overtly, a more covert, silent and worrisome issue is that of the erosion of the social and cultural mores of Black immigrant students. Accordingly, this study asks, what are the socio-cultural experiences of Black female immigrant students in South African schools?

The argument is presented as follows. I sketch a brief background context to situate the identified intellectual puzzle. I then explore the literature in an attempt to determine findings from the major debates in this field of study. This is followed by a brief exposition of the theoretical framework that is utilised in this study. The findings are presented and subsequently analysed and discussed in an attempt to unpack the socio-cultural experiences of Black female immigrant students in South African schools.

Background Context

Socio-cultural experiences of Black immigrant students cannot be investigated in isolation of broader societal influences. In the case of South Africa, this phenomenon has to be understood against the backdrop of the broader context of migration and xenophobia in South Africa. …

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