The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

Studying While Black

Between 2013 and 2017, a team of researchers from the Human Sciences Research Council undertook a longitudinal qualitative study that tracked eighty students from eight diverse universities in South Africa and documented their experiences at these higher education institutions. Midway through the study, the student protests erupted and focused national attention on many of the stories we had already heard. In the subsequent years of the study, we also heard from students who were actively involved in these transformation struggles as well as those who sat on the side-lines.

Studying While Black is an intimate portrait of the many ways in which students in South Africa experience university, and the centrality of race and geography in their quest for education and ultimately emancipation. Students voices can be heard directly in a 45 minute documentary that accompanied this study entitled Ready or Not!: Black students’ experiences of South African universities – freely available on social media.

Product information

Format : 240mm x 168mm (Soft Cover)
Pages : 272
ISBN 13 : 978-0-7969-2508-4
Publish Year : March 2018
Rights : World Rights

Chapter 1 South African students and their struggles: An in-depth view
                Literature review
                Conceptual framework
                Research questions and study design
                Navigating the annexes of this book

Chapter 2 Participants and their institutions: Individuals in context
                Findings
                Family
                Community
                Schools
                Perceptions of success
                Visions for life
                Institutions of higher learning
                Discussion

Chapter 3 Navigating race in higher education and beyond
                Findings
                Inclusion and identity politics
                Understanding legacies of apartheid
                Decolonisation and rethinking the university
                Discussion
                Recommendations

Chapter 4 Gender dynamics and (in)equality of experiences
                Findings
                Understanding the meaning of patriarchy and gender difference on campus
                Progress and challenges in addressing gender equity on campuses
                Gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation at university
                Discussion
                Recommendations

Chapter 5 Language and power as structural barriers
                Findings
                Language privilege
                Background disadvantage
                ‘Good English and accents’
                Discussion
                Recommendations

Chapter 6 Obstacles to access and participation in universities
                Findings
                Academic obstacles
                Financial obstacles
                Financially interlinked obstacles: Accommodation and travel
                Additional challenges
                Discussion
                Recommendations

Chapter 7 Students’ perspectives and strategies for success
                Findings
                Individual factors: Focus, self-reliance and academic interest
                Micro factors: Supportive networks
                Educational resources
                Macro factors: Religiosity
                Discussion
                Recommendations

Chapter 8 Interventionist research strategies for emancipation
                Strategies for emancipation
                Discussion
                Recommendations

Chapter 9 Conclusion: Skills and systemic change needed
                How inequality is manifested
                Overall findings of the study
                Recommendations
                Conclusion 

Appendix 1 Ethics: Sample information sheet and consent form
Appendix 2 University sketches
Appendix 3 Recruitment poster
Appendix 4 Annual participant interview schedules
Appendix 5 Participant profiles and biographies
Appendix 6 Social network interview questions
Appendix 7 Recommendations by stakeholder category


Emma Arogundade is a former senior researcher at the Human Sciences Research Council and a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cape Town. Her thesis explores issues of morality, racialised identity and restitution in South Africa. She holds an MPhil in Critical Diversity Studies from the University of Cape Town and has lectured extensively on diversity, race, class and gender and on community development, both at UCT and at the School for International Training. She is the co-author of Moral Eyes: Cultivating Youth Engagement on Privilege, Injustice and Restitution (2018), has edited three volumes in the ‘Celebrating Africa’ series at the University of Cape Town, and has published two journal articles and two book chapters. Her work centres on identities, feminisms and narrative theory, using these frameworks to explore issues from community development, to motherhood, and moral identities to intersecting axes of privilege, oppression and forms of resistance.

Adam Cooper is a research specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council and research associate in the Department of Education Policy Studies at Stellenbosch University. Before joining the HSRC he was a National Research Foundation of South Africa postdoctoral scholar abroad, based at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. He was the recipient of a Commonwealth Split-site PhD scholarship between the University of Cambridge (Faculty of Education) and Stellenbosch University (Department of  Education Policy Studies). In 2017, Routledge published his first monograph, Dialogue in Places of Learning. He has published peer-reviewed journal articles on South African youth with a focus on masculinities, young offenders, curriculum development and critical pedagogy.

Candice Groenewald is a research specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council. She holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a Master’s degree in Research Psychology from the University of the Western Cape. She has six publications in local and international journals and has also co-authored two book chapters as well as three technical outputs on the epidemiology of substance abuse in South Africa. She has presented 25 papers at local and international conferences and has lectured in psychology and research at the University of the Western Cape. She has been a co- investigator on various research projects, including studies related to adolescent substance abuse, families affected by adolescent substance abuse, early childhood development and education in African communities, youth and homelessness in Durban, race and identity studies, and adolescent exposure to community violence in the Western Cape. She is also interested in diverse research methodologies, including survey methodologies, phenomenological investigations, programme evaluation, life history approaches and participatory action research.

Ernest Nene Khalema is the Dean and Head of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He holds a PhD from the University of Alberta in Canada. Before joining UKZN, he was a professor in various Canadian universities since 2001 and served as chief  specialistresearch at the Human Sciences Research Council where his groundbreaking work on participatory action methodologies (quantitative and qualitative), social epidemiology, critical race and gender studies, migration and mobilities, and development studies received international recognition. He is the author of several books including the forthcoming monograph entitled Affirming their Resilient Lives: Migrant Youth in Africa and the Diaspora (Sense Publishers, 2018); and co-editor of Crisis, Identity and Migration in Post-Colonial Southern Africa (Springer, 2017); Children in South African Families: Lives and Times (Cambridge Scholars Publishers, 2016); Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Retrospect: African Development Beyond 2015 (Springer, 2015) and Africa Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Exploring the Multi-dimensional Discourses on Development (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013).

Alude Mahali is a research specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council and an honorary lecturer in the Department of Drama and Performance Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She holds a PhD in Performance Studies from the University of Cape Town and an MA in Theatre Making, also from the University of Cape Town. Before joining the HSRC, she taught at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica. She has convened an international conference in the area of African theatre and performance, served as keynote speaker at youth symposia and presented at numerous international conferences. She has published several peer-reviewed articles in her research areas, which focus on intersectional identities: race, class, gender, language and youth navigational capacities. Her most recent publications look at the domestic worker trope, black womanhood, social protest and youth activism in contemporary South Africa.

Relebohile Moletsane is Professor and the JL Dube Chair in Rural Education and the Acting Director of the Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity (CCRRI) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her research interests include rurality, gender and education, sexual and reproduction health, education, and participatory visual research. She is the principal investigator of the project: Education and Emancipation: A critical, intervention-oriented investigation of obstacles and opportunities within the higher-education-and-training sector in South Africa (2013–2017). She is the co-author (with Claudia Mitchell and Naydene de Lange) of the 2017 book, Participatory Visual Methodologies: Social change Through Community and Policy Dialogue (SAGE); and co-editor (with Barbara Pini and Martin Mills) of the 2016 book, Education and the Global Rural: Feminist Perspectives (Routledge).

Sharlene Swartz is a Deputy Executive Director at the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa,an honorary Professor of Philosophy at the University of Fort Hare and an adjunct Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Cape Town. She holds undergraduate degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Zululand in South Africa; a master’s degree from Harvard University and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. Her expertise and current research centre on the just inclusion of youth in a transforming society and on interpersonal and communal notions of restitution. Her work is characterised by a focus on Southern theory, emancipatory methodologies and critical race theory. She is the author or co-author of nine books, including Another Country: Everyday Social Restitution (HSRC Press, 2016); Ikasi: The Moral Ecology of South Africa’s Township Youth (Palgrave, 2009); Teenage Tata: Voices of Young South African Fathers (HSRC Press, 2009); Youth Citizenship and the Politics of Belonging (Routledge, 2013); and Moral Eyes: Cultivating Youth Engagement on Privilege, Injustice and Restitution (HSRC Press, 2018).

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