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Centre of African Studies: Research


Paper Details

Author: Beth Cross

Title: Sounding Out the Silences: Narratives and Absences in African Higher Education

Year: 1996

In this time of increasing pressure on universities in Africa, this paper explores the narrative accounting of such education. The absence of narrative in policy and research literature is first examined before other sources are taken into consideration. The depiction of education in literature, specifically Soyinyka's Ake is explored and then related to oral accounts offered by two Kenyan women post-graduate students currently studying at New College, University of Edinburgh. The narrative cut across the categories that usually compartmentalise educational research and highlight the gender issues involved throughout. The narratives lead through rural and early childhood education, on their way to informing the perspective of higher education from which the narrators speak. The narratives indicate just how strongly educational attitudes and identities are shaped prior to university. In orer to derive a methodology approprite to African contexts, careful consideration is given to current issues in qualitative research. A research design which focuses on the relationailty of the texts, examining not only what is related but how it is related, is developed. This necessitates an examination of the role that the researcher herself plays in relation to both texts and narrators. The counter-puntal themes of alienation and self-confidence which arise from this exploration, it is intended, will serve as a contribution to "sounding out the silences within one of Africa's educational development dilemmas.

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