Understanding the Professional Lives of Female Teachers in Rural Sub-Saharan African Schools: A Capability Perspective

Buckler, Alison Sarah (2012). Understanding the Professional Lives of Female Teachers in Rural Sub-Saharan African Schools: A Capability Perspective. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000993c


This study examines an important dimension of the global challenge to achieve Education for All: the professional lives of female teachers in rural communities in Sub Saharan Africa. Teachers from five countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Sudan) provide a focus for exploring the relationship between official representations of teachers' work and the professional lives teachers create and experience.

The official perspective is drawn from an analysis of documentary evidence and interviews with policy makers and officials. Teachers; perspectives are derived from an ethnographic and narrative analysis of data collected during fieldwork in schools. The thesis is framed by the capability approach. It compiles lists of professional capablities for each perspective and examines teachers' agency to pursue and achieve these capabilities.

The thesis establishes that:

- the capability approach provides a frame of reference for understanding the professional lives of teachers. In particular it highlights disconnections between official and teacher perceptions of the teacher role and teacher effectiveness and makes visible patterns of agency teachers have within their professional lives.

- the predominantly deficit model of teacher work in Sub-Saharan Africa expressed in policy documentation and the literature fails to take account of the more complex ways in which female working lives are situated; for example the intersection of professional values with rurality and gender.

- teachers do not necessarily perceive rurality in negative terms, but rather the "conditions of support" associated with rurality. This defines a further dimension to teacher agency and has implications for re-examining the professional and administrative structures within which teachers work.

The thesis concludes by proposing a model of professional capability for female teachers working in rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa in a form that could engage research and policy communities, and suggesting grounds for re-thinking policy orientations to teachers working in such contexts.

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