22 SES 09 C, Inclusion and Exclusion: Various comparative perspectives
In South Africa, black students (mostly) are protesting against a colonised education system that is alientating them, and there are cries for inclusivity and the decolonisation of education. Through nationwide protests in South Africa, disgruntled students are campaigning against university fee increases and the right to free education, giving rise to the “#fees must fall” movement. These protests have also sparked thinking and conversations on the decolonization of education leading to students being vocal about their dissatisfaction with the colonised nature of eduction emanating in demands for inclusiveness alongside the decolonization of education. Black students, in particular, have lamented feeling marginalized and unwelcome at higher education institutions which they purport continues to promote inequality and social injustice whilst priviledging whiteness and‘colonality’ (Mahr, 2016; BBC, 2017; Mail and Guardian, 2017; Luckett 2016).
The consequence of the above perception of black students is that (as Luckett 2016:424 points out) it gives permission for the descendants of colonisers to assume the role of “agents of development”. This has resulted in grooming and preparing black students for a higher education environment which aligns more with white than black habitus and capital. In referring to the racialized and classed South African Higher Education environment, Booi, Vincent and Liccardo (2017) argue that the capital possessed by dominant actors in the form of white-middle class habitus is disguised and firmly entrenched as ‘excellence’. This assumption has created a gap in the provision of support that would be appropriate for black students while concomitantly regarding their habitus and capital as a source of strength rather than a limitation which needs to be corrected for the sake of “epistemological access”. Booi et al.(2017) asserts that the blatant perpetuation of white power and priviledge is actually an “epistemic injustice”.
There is a dire need to decolonize the conceptualization and execution of support for black students in South Africa, which at present is mostly in alignment with the habitus of the colonizer. Although there are conversations on the decolonization of education in South Africa, tangible ways of addressing the same are few and far between. The marginalization of black students also needs to be addressed so that they are not made to feel that they are in the wrong place and shunted to the periphery of the academe as second class citizens. This article reports on a study that demonstrates how tutorials can be utlilized as a decolonization tool that humanizes students and makes them feel accepted in higher education.
The central argument in this study is that the tutorial field offered a privileged, decolonised space for multi-lingual tutors and tutees based on their cultural and social capital, which was valued in the field. This was necessary so that over time tutees would have acquired academic capital that was necessary for the improvement of academic performance. Through collaboration with their peers and interaction with approachable tutors tutees acquired social capital thereby enhancing inclusion in the higher education environment and creating a sense of belonging.
In presenting these arguments, the study is underpinned theoretically by Engestrom’s Activity Theory (Engeström, 1987) and Bourdieu’s framework that relates to field, habitus and capital (Bourdieu, 1986; Bourdieu, 2013; Bourdieu and Thompson, 1991), as explicated below.
Activity theory was chosen to help focus the study whilst viewing tutorials as an activity system within the higher education environment. Given that the country where this study was conducted is largely heterogenous with respect to ethnicity and class, Bourdieu’s framework was selected to allow for an analysis of the habitus and capital of stakeholders, which might influence or contribute to the outcome of the activity system.
In this institution-wide study, tutees’ perceptions of tutorials, as the object, were solicited at a University of Technology in South Africa. The tutors who were involved in tutoring were at the second, third and fourth year level of study. The purpose of tutorials was to enhance learning among undergraduates, the majority of whom are black. A purposive sample was employed in that only students who had attended tutorials (that is, tutees) could respond to the survey. Self-administered questionnaires, containing structured and unstructured items for the collection of quantitative and qualitative data respectively, were applied. The structured items were designed using a 5-point Likert scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The main objectives of the questionnaire were to: 1) Determine the effectiveness of tutorials from the perspective of tutees and 2) Establish the role played by tutors in the empowerment of tutees. The online questionnaire, which was designed on Google drive, was administered via the University’s intranet system. In order to improve the response rate, two reminders were issued, however, the response rate remained low (32 responses). This prompted a decision to design and administer the questionnaire through Blackboard. A total of 896 completed questionnaires were received (via Google drive, Blackboard and hard copies). Table 1 shows the distribution of responses received from tutees across the faculties. A large majority of respondents were from the Faculty of Business while a small majority were from the Faculty of Education and Social Sciences.
The tutorial field, as found in this study, was instrumental in providing academically nurturing spaces where black tutees felt comfortable and thrived largely because of the symbolic capital and habitus of tutors whom they identified with. The application of decolonised pedagogical tools such as the tutees’ mother-tongue and the use of group work during tutorials could potentially contribute to the integration of black tutees within the academe. It is recommended, however, that one must guard against the formation of linguistically homogenous groups that could be construed as exclusive. Although the country context of the study reported on in this article is South Africa, it would be naïve to assume that the arguments on inclusivity and the decolonization of education could not be true of other similar international contexts where there is a need to quell exclusivity and reduce the colonial footprint.
BBC. 2017. Why are South African Students protesting? Available at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-34615004 Booi, M., Vincent, L. and Liccardo, S. 2017. Counting on demographic equity to transform institutional cultures at historically white South African universities? Higher Education Research and Development, 36(3): 498–510. Bourdieu, P. and J.B. Thompson (Ed.). 1991. Language and symbolic power. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. Bourdieu, P. 1986. The forms of capital in J. Richardson (ED.). Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education . pp. 241–258. New York: Greenwood. Bourdieu, P. 2013. Symbolic capital and social class. Journal of Classic Sociology, 13(2):292¬-302. Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: An activity theoretical approach to developmental research. Helsinki, Orienta-Konsultit Oy. Luckett, K. 2016. Curriculum contestation in a post-colonial context: a view from the South. Teaching in Higher Education, 21(4):415–428. Mail and Guardian. 2017. Student protests. Available at https://mg.co.za/tag/student-protests Mahr, K. 2016. South Africa’s student protests are part of a much bigger struggle. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/09/23/south-africas-student-protests-are-part-of-a-much-bigger-struggle/?utm_term=.dd698b34af2d
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