University of Sussex
Adzahlie-Mensah,_Vincent.pdf (4.69 MB)

Being ‘nobodies’: school regimes and student identities in Ghana

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posted on 2023-06-08, 17:13 authored by Vincent Adzahlie-Mensah
What do we know about student experiences and perspectives of schooling in developing country contexts that are relevant to the ‘big debates’ concerning Education for All (EFA)? This study, Being ‘Nobodies’: School Regimes and Student Identities in Ghana, speaks to the question I pose. It explores the in-school experiences and identities of fifteen students in a rural Ghanaian Basic School using a critical anti-colonial discursive framework. The critical proposition underlying the study is that, aside from the longstanding problems we know of from research on schooling in developing countries, other problems “can be attributed to the dismal failure of the postcolonial state to change the existing system so that it reflects changing times, circumstances and social realities” (Dei, 2004:6). Unlike the dominant positivistic ‘etiology’ of challenges to EFA, this school-based ethnographic case study provides strong evidence that persisting colonial school regimes – authoritarian forms of control and the reproduction of knowledge - are implicated in the educational experiences of students and the identities they negotiate within the institution. The three analysis chapters – Chapters Five, Six and Seven – contribute to the wider literature on schooling by specifically exploring students’ perspectives on school regimes and student identities. Chapter Five discusses schooling as control. It highlights the more formal institutional regimes (authoritarian school organisation, school timetable as a management tool and the school code of discipline) that organise student experiences of schooling. Chapter Six focuses on the reproduction of knowledge through the delivered curriculum and performance modes of teaching and learning. Chapter Seven explores identities that students develop in relation to the practices discussed in Chapter Five and Chapter Six. It highlights that students see themselves as being ‘nobodies’ such that their ‘best’ agency is to use silence as an agentic ‘voice’. Despite Ghana’s long attained independence, my thesis of the student identities of being ‘nobodies’ asserts that, there has been little critical review of bequeathed colonial school practices. By practices, I mean specifically: authoritarian organization; discipline forms; and, performance modes of knowledge production that position students as ‘colonised subjects’. Based on the central analysis of this research, I recommend further research into the ways in which student experiences can inform the ‘big debates’ central to EFA.


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