The last two decades has seen growing interest in getting more academically promising First-Generation, Low-Income Students (FGLISs) into postsecondary education through various interventions to improve their social and economic mobility (Avery, 2013; Brennan & Shah, 2003; Engberg & Allen, 2011; Hoxby & Turner, 2013; Morley, Leach & Lugg, 2008; Perna, Rowan-Kenyon, Bell, Thomas, & Li, 2008). This interest stems from multiple types of research indicating that individuals with postsecondary degrees have better life chances. Postsecondary degree holders also have a higher income earning potential, exhibit higher levels of civic engagement, are healthier, contribute more to the economic development of their country, and have more significant potential for socio-economic mobility than persons without such degrees (Avery, Howell, & Page, 2014; Baum, Ma, & Payea, 2013; Carnevale, Rose, Cheah, 2011; Hout, 2011; Jacobson & Mokher, 2009; Kuh, Cruce, Shoup, Kinzie & Gonyea, 2008; Thayer, 2000). The fourth Sustainable Goal on providing inclusive quality education, for instance, emphasizes on amongst other targets providing “equal access to affordable vocational training, to eliminate gender and wealth disparities, and achieve universal access to a quality higher education.” Thus, making postsecondary education, especially for the world’s disadvantaged an integral component of the world’s sustainable development goals (UNDP, 2019). Consequently, postsecondary enrollment across the world is increasing steadily globally. For instance, in sub-Saharan Africa, enrollment in secondary and tertiary education grew by more than 60% between 2000 and 2008 (UNESCO 2011). We seem to be making good strides globally for some of the world’s vulnerable populations to gain access to good quality higher education. However, research on the subjective experiences of these populations and the intersectionality of their identities and its impact on how they navigate through their postsecondary training to succeed is limited especially for students living in developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. (Morley, Leach & Lugg, 2008). This lack of research on how vulnerable youths are experiencing postsecondary education cannot be ignored because they form the highest population group globally. The 2015 United Nations’ World Population Prospects report, for example, predicts that the population of Africa will double by the year 2050 with the highest population being the youth (UN. 2015). Côté (2014) has argued for instance for more research on global youth from the global South to avoid the continues application of theories and analytical frameworks from similar youths in the global North being used to understand their experiences in the absence of contextually empirical research done in the global south. Nonetheless, in spite of this dearth in research on the educational experiences particularly of vulnerable youths in the global South, there seems to be some evidence that some FGLISs are using a cultural nuanced and positive assert-based navigational capacity “hustling” as an academic resilience and persistence strategy. This strategy is learned from their experiences of being disadvantaged to navigate the higher education context to succeed once they gain access to counter the often deficit narratives used to explain their college attainment. The capacity to “hustle” (inspired by the work of Arjun Appadurai and Theime, 2017), in the higher educational setting, is not extensively researched and therefore does not have a strong literature base. I employ a narrative inquiry study to understand young people’s capacity to “hustle” which seems to be characterized by the application of multiple survival and persistence strategies including: contingency planning, collective agency, accumulation and use of various forms of capital, self-efficacy and self-authorship when conditions for success or survival is uncertain and challenging. This empirical study analyses narratives from 17 students in an African University and demonstrates how performing hustling is critical to youths’ capacity to navigate their educational futures to become undergraduates to afford them the benefits of postsecondary education. I draw on youth-centered methodology – narrative inquiry using life-story, which is familiar to the African system of knowledge sharing through storytelling familiar to the youth. Narrative inquiry gives youth a voice to share their most valuable experiences with hustling to show the complexity of youths’ experiences in negotiating their education alongside the uncertainties and challenges in their lives as they actively pursued their aspirations of a better life. This success strategy is worth investigating because, even though the cost of college attendance is covered for the participants in this study with the hope of removing the conditions causing them to struggle through college, they still maintain they “hustled” their way through university and further attribute their undergraduate success to their ability to hustle. This study answered the question: How do first-generation low-income students conceptualize, perform, and used their capacity to hustle to attain success in an African University? The results of this study points to five key findings that; i)FGLISs use hustling as a pathway to meeting multiple aspirations which can be personal, family oriented or communal, ii) Hustling is a form of collective agency used by FGLISs to attain success; iii) Hustling is an accumulation of multiple types of capital acquired and utilized by FGLISs throughout their educational and broader life trajectory; iv) Hustling enables FGLISs to develop a stronger sense of self-efficacy which they fall on when things gets tough as they work towards their educational, aspirational and v) Hustling is a form of catalyst which facilitates self-authorship of FGLISs. These critical elements of hustling explain its propensity to have contributed to the success of the participants in this study.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2019. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisor: Christopher Johnstone. 1 computer file (PDF); xiii, 273 pages.
Hustling narratives: Navigational capacities of first-generation, low-income African students.
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