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Educational Research for Social Change

On-line version ISSN 2221-4070


MATHIKITHELA, M.S.  and  WOOD, L.. Youth as Participatory Action Researchers: Exploring How to Make School a More Enabling Space. Educ. res. soc. change [online]. 2019, vol.8, n.2, pp.77-95. ISSN 2221-4070.

Schools should be enabling spaces that nurture the holistic development of learners. However, in under-resourced communities in South Africa this is not always the case because learners, already vulnerable due to the effects of poverty, are exposed to added stressors within the school gates. We explored how engaging vulnerable learners in a rural high school in a youth participatory action research (YPAR) process could enable them to take action to make their school a more enabling space. This article reports on the data generated by the participants during the first cycle of the YPAR, which was to inform the planning of future advocacy through answering the question: "How do youth perceive the current school climate?" The three themes that emerged indicate that the climate in the school was not conducive to creating a physical, emotional, or social space for learners to attain positive outcomes. This first cycle enabled the participating youth to develop an evidence base on which to ground further action and the tools to do so. Although not without its tensions, we conclude that YPAR is a powerful pathway to develop the agency of learners, enabling them to transform from vulnerable victims into advocates with the ability to influence positive transformation in themselves, their peers, and the climate of their school.

Keywords : learner support; resilience; school improvement; visual methods; vulnerability; youth participatory action research.

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