This dissertation examines how girls and boys become labeled as secondary school graduates (wahitimu) or dropouts (watoro) in Zanzibar’s education system, and how these categories influence youths’ visions of their futures, or the good life (maisha mazuri). The term watoro suggests that youth are deficient in a fair system. However, this study argues that youth rarely just drop out on their own volition, but instead leave school because they are pushed and pulled out by a number of family, school, and community forces. Through a review of historical documents, intergenerational interviews, and longitudinal analyses, this research traces how becoming a graduate (mhtimu) has shifted from the 1800s to present (2018), but also how deep geographical, economic, and social inequities still persist. These contemporary inequities are explored even further through theater scripts and narratives written and performed by youth using a popular theater methodology. Youth dramatize gendered reasons for being pushed and pulled out of school, but they also perform collective agency in navigating obstacles and in resisting the pathologizing girlhood and boyhood narratives written about them. By creating a stage for the youth to perform their experiences in schooling, and the climactic moment of the high-stakes exams, the youth revealed not just who, why, and how boys and girls leave secondary school, but the emotional toll this state of tension and limbo has on their confidence in themselves and their futures.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation.August 2018. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisors: Frances Vavrus, Joan DeJaeghere. 1 computer file (PDF); 310 pages.
Performing Graduates, Dropouts, and Pushouts: The Gendered Scripts and Aspirations of Secondary School Students in Zanzibar.
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