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Past Research

Ghanaian Schoolchildren's Understandings and Experiences of Education: An alternative contribution to the orthodox discourse regarding education in sub-Saharan Africa.

This Masters thesis sought to assess the extent to which a sample of schoolchildren in Ghana agreed with the purposes of and barriers to education proposed in the orthodox literature. This was an attempt to redress the exclusion of children's voices from public discourses regarding childhood and public policy and development strategies intended to directly benefit young people.

Focus groups utlilising creative and participatory research tools were conducted with a group of young people attending one public and one private school in Winneba, a Ghanaian fishing town. The young participants agreed with many of the established arguments for the expansion of education, particularly those regarding anticipated future benefits such as improved career prospects and enhanced capabilities. These benefits were primarily related to the fortunes of their families and local communities, however, rather national economic and social development. Discussions about the barriers to education also largely echoed those in the development literature, with household poverty and parental mortality seen as the most pivotal inhibitors of enrolment.

The research demonstrated that, through the use of appropriate methods, young children can engage with questions about the processes that affect their lives and make a meaningful contribution to a discourse about children and childhood.

Universal Primary Education in Ethiopia, the Gambia, Nigeria and Swaziland: Case studies to examine progress towards and the usefulness of the second Millennium Development Goal in sub-Saharan Africa.

This undergraduate dissertation assessed progress towards and the usefulness of the second MDG of universal primary education in four nations of sub-Saharan Africa, the region of the world least "on-track" to meet the MDGs.

Enrolment and continuations statistics revealed varying progress towards the Goal, with Ethiopia moving particularly rapidly towards universality and the Gambia displaying the most stagnant state of education. However, a review of country-specific research literature found similar barriers to expansion across the four countries, particularly in the form of widespread poverty and social disadvantage and insufficient resourcing and inappropriate delivery of education.

Reviewing government expenditure and policy revealed that all four countries were prioritising education, this aspiration pre-dated the MDGs. Furthermore, the low participation rates with which these countries started means that they are likely to be deemed "failures" despite some great advances. The Goal also neglects the value of informal education.

On the other hand, although the social and economic externalities associated with education remain to be seen at national levels, secondary literature revealed that schooling was valued by the citizens of these countries, and thus an important development aspiration. The UN's recognition that expanding primary education is one of a number of important and mutually reinforcing development objectives is also commendable.

Swaziland: A "Protective Environment" for Children? Utilising and evaluating the UNICEF framework in a developing society

This independent research project was funded by the Reinvention Centre, Warwick, and culminated in a journal article published in the Reinvention Journal of Undergraduate Research.

The research combined a review of existing literature with a 5 week ethnographic case-study in Lobamba, Swaziland. It investigated to what extent Swaziland was a "Protective Environment" for children according to the so-entitled UNICEF framework, and considered whether this Western, paternalistic framework was appropriate to the different economic, social and cultural values of a developing Southern African country.

Findings suggested that some aspects of the framework did appear to be appropriate to this society, and to feature in the children's own conception of their world and need for protection. In particular,the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and the resulting lack of open discussion was putting many children in this community at risk, both through lack of diagnosis and therefore appropriate treatment, and through the psychological and emotional impact upon children infected or suspected to be infected with the virus. The importance of legislation and access to essential services was also apparent. For instance,the implementation of free primary education requires monitoring, as the government face challenges both foreseen and unforeseen. Currently proving problematic were the issue of compulsory school uniforms, which were not covered by government funding, and concerns about the impact of compulsory education upon families' livelihoods, particularly in rural areas.

Other aspects of the model were less fitting to this particular society. Specifically, the concept of Families and Communities' Capacity to Protect is based upon assumptions that appeared inappropriate to this particular society, where children often enjoy valuable and resilient structures of care despite an absence of the nuclear family unit often portrayed as traditional and thus superior in Western discourse. The paternalistic UNICEF model did not account for the positive roles which these children were playing in the lives of their families and communities, for example in looking after one another and taking action to avoid risks.

L Marshall