Parents’ perspectives and practices around the schooling of children in rural Northern Nigeria

Oyinloye, Bukola (2021). Parents’ perspectives and practices around the schooling of children in rural Northern Nigeria. PhD thesis The Open University.



Parental involvement – parents' commitment of resources to children's schooling – has received significant scholarly attention in highly industrialized contexts. However, less evidence exists from sub-Saharan Africa about rural parents’ involvement in and perceptions of schooling. The little that exists frequently positions parents as uninterested and uninvolved, often from the perspectives of teachers, students and government officials. This study explores rural African parents' own perspectives on, and involvement in, schooling in two rural Yorùbá primary school-communities in North central Nigeria and whether, like the extant literature, teachers hold deficit perspectives of parents. To generate data, it uses an ethnographic approach, embedded within a situated Ọmọlúàbí moral ethical ethics framework, employing observation and interview techniques with 22 parents and grandparents, 15 children and 23 teachers. To analyze data, it applies thematic analysis to help capture the essence of the data. Deeper insight is facilitated by the study’s conceptual framework, a combination of capabilitarian concepts – functionings (valued beings and doings) and agency (to achieve functionings) – and Bourdieuian tools – social field, habitus (disposition) and capital (resources) – alongside an existing typology of parental involvement. The findings demonstrate that teachers hold deficit, but simultaneously empathetic, views of rural parents, influenced by their in depth knowledge of school-communities and shared personal experiences, particularly between female teachers and mothers. Parents articulate complex ethnotheories, or cultural beliefs about children’s lives, which transcend schooling and integrate other valued forms of learning: learning at home, Islamic schooling, and informal apprenticeships. Though parents value schooling, they are discouraged by their perceptions of its injustice, particularly the differential outcomes for poor and rich children. Parental involvement in schooling also goes beyond existing categories to reveal other basic, communal, disciplinary, socio-cultural and spiritual schooling practices. The study ultimately demonstrates that research on learning in rural sub-Saharan Africa which narrowly conceives learning as schooling and, therefore, excludes analysis of values and agency outside school learning, underrepresents and underrecognizes parental and other agency around learning.

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