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Citation Information

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Doctor of Philosophy
Title Early language and literacy learning in a peripheral African setting: a study of children's participation in home and school communicative and literacy practices in and around Manzini, Swaziland
Author(s)
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
URL http://open.uct.ac.za/bitstream/handle/11427/12746/thesis_hum_2009_dlamini_s.pdf?sequence=1
Abstract
This thesis is an ethnographic study of the early literacy development of four children
from low-income families in and around Manzini, Swaziland. It investigated the
orientations to literacy, language, and communication that children brought to school
from home, vice versa, and the sorts of consequences that such traversing of sites has for
the children’s literacy development and schooling. It is the first study of literacy and
children’s literacy carried out in Swaziland from a socio-cultural perspective.
The study joins a growing body of New Literacy Studies research into the social practices
that shape children’s early literacy learning and a smaller body of such work from Africa.
I used evidence from four children’s home and school literacy lives, systematically
collected by means of in-depth ethnographic case studies and used an interpretive
analytical frame of enquiry. This study breaks with previous research in Swaziland by
detailing the situated ways that reading and writing happen in specific socio-cultural
contexts. It adopted an interpretive case-study approach that illuminates children’s
engagement in particular home- and school-based reading and writing practices. I based
conclusions on a detailed study and analysis of each child case in keeping with
ethnographic-style enquiry’s quest for grounded theory; i.e., emanating directly from data
evidence as opposed to imposing preconceptions. Resultant in-depth understanding of
particular cases made it plausible to relate studied cases to the larger situation.
ii
University of Cape TownI show that teachers disregarded children’s creative out-of-school communicative
repertoires in literacy learning and that this was linked to the way that Swazi society (and
perhaps other African contexts) generally subordinates children, who defer to and
passively learn from the adults around them. Children initiated activities and expressed
themselves only during unsupervised play at home and off-task in school, thereby
manifesting language resources which remained invisible to adults at home and teachers
in school. I argue that these children encountered a restricted form of literacy in school
which neither drew from nor elaborated on their emerging communicative resources; nor
provided them access to a substantial alternative resource for sense-making and
communication which could form the basis of successful schooling careers, as well as
post-school real-life literacy applications.

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