Conceptualising Childhood
: Perceptions and Practices of Childhood Education and Migration Among the Argobba Community in North-Eastern Ethiopia

  • Anannia Admassu Sahle

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis explores how childhood among the Argobba communities in
    north-east Ethiopia is shaped by local social and cultural attitudes and some
    aspects of political changes and globalisation. By investigating children’s
    perspectives with regard to their roles in households and communities, it
    examines what influences children and adults’ perceptions and practices
    concerning children’s education and migration. Given the importance of
    generational relations among various ethnic groups in Ethiopia, the research
    asked how children and young people react to cultural contexts and societal
    values and examined whether existing generational relationships and cultural
    context have shown changes over time.

    Drawing from the social study of childhood and through adopting a social
    constructivist approach, the research explored how their childhoods are
    constructed and reconstructed in the course of their interactions with their peers,
    families and community members. The research used Anderson’s (1983)
    framework of ‘Imagined communities’ to explore the differing ways of how
    sociocultural values and the legacy of past traditions shape children and adults’
    imaginings regarding their identity and future livelihoods. The research found
    differences between the perspectives of children and adults on how childhood
    and education are conceptualised and practised. Aspirations related to
    migration were largely economic, and despite the many risks, migration was
    believed to be beneficial by children and adults alike. An examination of
    generational relationships reflected both tensions and collaboration between
    generations, which facilitated and, at times, constrained the agency of both
    children and adults. Changes are also emerging in kinship and familial relations due to emergence of transnational families and better finincial standing of
    successful migrants. Improvements in the expansion of media technology and
    better transport enabled children and young people to migrate.

    The originality of my thesis, therefore, lies in the under-researched nature
    of the Argobba people. This is mainly true for the children as no other studies
    have presented the perspectives of children as ‘active participants’ and explored
    their agency in light of the emerging impacts of globalisation on their
    perceptions and practices of education and migration. By showing how
    sociocultural values shape childhoods and presenting the relational nature and
    interdependencies between children and adults, this research contributes to the
    social study of childhood and further theorisation of generational differences
    among marginalised ethnic minorities such as the Argobbas. Furthermore, the
    research builds on Anderson’s framework of ‘imagined communities’ through
    demonstrating how changes in the social and economic contexts as well as
    globalisation influenced children and young people’s imaginings. Hence, the
    research argued that while adults tend to maintain the legacy of their ancestral
    traditions and ethnic identity, which were often related to the past, children and
    young persons form their imaginings into the future using education and
    migration as a vehicle towards achieving their aspirations and their transitions
    into adulthood.
    Date of AwardOct 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorMark Erickson (Supervisor) & Vicky Johnson (Supervisor)

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