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education and transformations in transition(s) to adulthood in Ghana, Kenya, India and Pakistan (RECOUO, education, development, poverty, Africa, South Asia))
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education and transformations in transition(s) to adulthood in Ghana, Kenya, India and Pakistan (RECOUO, education, development, poverty, Africa, South Asia))


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Adulthood is usually defined in terms of a series of markers: leaving school, starting a first job, leaving the parental home, forming a first union, marrying and having a first child, becoming a …

Adulthood is usually defined in terms of a series of markers: leaving school, starting a first job, leaving the parental home, forming a first union, marrying and having a first child, becoming a citizen. Such approaches draw on the idea that young people make one transition to what is locally agreed to be a clearly defined status—a destination at which one ‘arrives’. But globally, there is recognition that many of these markers are reversible and impermanent, so that there is no simple and clear notion of ‘youth’ in contrast to adulthood, and no notion of ‘arrival’ at a singular adulthood. Rather there are ‘fragile and reversible transitions’, negotiations and controls, and boundaries to cross before young men and women can take control of their lives as adults. Nevertheless, youth policy remains strongly influenced by the idea of linear transition, and the associated metaphor of individualised ‘pathways’ from school to work and adulthood.

In this paper we draw on data on social and human outcomes of schooling, collected under the aegis of the RECOUP programme of research, to consider the evidence on how schooling affects the nature of young men and women’s chances of gaining, for example: livelihood and enterprise; self- protection, security and equality; and agency, resilience and autonomy as adults in the RECOUP partner countries, and the implications for education and youth policy.

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  • 1. Education and transformations in the transition(s) to adulthood: Gender, agency and relationships in India and Ghana Madeleine Arnot, Roger Jeffery, Leslie Casely-Hayford, Claire Noronha, Elizabeth Musah & Edward Salifu and other members of the RECOUP team
  • 2. Outline of presentation
    • Exploring transitions to adulthood in poverty contexts in the Global South
    • RECOUP research
    • N India: young women negotiating marriage
    • Northern Ghana: gendered perceptions of adulthood
    • Contrasts and common themes
  • 3. 1. Transitions to adulthood
    • Main issues with structural accounts
      • Linear trajectory assumed
      • Defined markers – leaving home, leaving school, getting a job and living independently
      • Normative judgements about desirable sequences
      • Only one transition
        • ‘ A destination at which one arrives’
      • Eurocentric or Global North
  • 4. 2. Youth transitions and development
      • World Bank and improving 5 key transitions
        • Learning
        • Work
        • Health and well-being
        • Family building
        • Citizenship
      • Goes beyond human capital approaches to reducing poverty
      • Youth as stakeholders able to influence governance and market
  • 5. 3. ‘Growing Up Global’
    • Poorest youth are most vulnerable and face dangerous lives: marginalised
    • Globalisation exaggerates these issues
    • Youth as symbolic of change
    • Youth as interpreters and agents of change, living the tensions
      • New media messages
      • New schooling systems
      • New nationalist politics
      • War and migration
  • 6. RECOUP research
    • Quantitative:
      • Household Surveys in Ghana, India and Pakistan
      • Household censuses in four sites in all four partner countries
    • Qualitative:
      • Sub-projects on youth, gender and citizenship ( YGC ), health and fertility ( H&F ), disability (DEPP), skills, public-private partnerships and aid relationships
  • 7. Emergent stories of youth as negotiators in the private sphere
    • Is schooling changing the transition to adulthood of the young people we studied?
      • Looking at the private arena: natal and affinal families
      • Micro-level of change
      • Informed by two-generational views
      • Gender relations are central aspects of the transitions
  • 8. Slices of data
    • Data from India H&F and Ghana YGC
      • India: Semi-structured interviews with 61 married women aged 20-29 with at least one child under the age of 6 in Rajasthan & MP
      • Ghana: In-depth interviews and focus group discussions with 10 men and 10 women aged 15-25 in northern rural Ghana (Dagomba); interviews with their mothers and fathers, and gatekeepers.
  • 9. India: Marital Transitions
    • How was education understood as a factor in shaping young women’s transitions into marriage and childbearing?
    • How do young women and their mothers-in-law understand the effects of schooling on the negotiation of roles and responsibilities within marriage?
  • 10. Womanhood in north India
    • Being married is an important watershed in a becoming a woman: she ceases to be a girl and becomes a woman
    • A young women normally shifts to her husband's place of residence to live out her adult roles and responsibilities.
    • Motherhood is expected to result fairly quickly from the sexual relationship with her husband: a woman who is not pregnant within two years or so will be under increasing pressure to get medical or other advice for what is seen as ‘her’ problem.
  • 11. India: Concerns of young women
    • Perceptions of the effects of education:
      • If a mother-father arranges it, then what can be done? If I was educated then I would have said that I will not marry now … I was illiterate … wherever mother-father says I should marry, there would be fine . (Santosh, Rural Dewas, 1-2 years of schooling, married at age 16)
  • 12. Discretionary spaces
    • Negotiating female power relations within the marital home
      • Residence and rights
      • Conjugal relationships: the rise of ‘caring, responsible and friendly husbands’ allowing spatial freedom
      • ‘ Weapons of the weak’ being used to effect
      • Changes within the household in aspects of identity are not insignificant
  • 13. Agency, in incremental ways
    • Maya, rural Alwar (10th class, married at 17)
      • she had met her husband before they were married, and was asked for her opinions, but even today she fights with her parents over the fact that they got her married off so early, despite being educated themselves.
    • Pavitra, urban Alwar
      • Her mother-in-law behaves like the stereotype of popular Indian serials, taunting her about her dowry, scolding her about her behaviour and about her way of cooking and so on. Pavitra’s weapon is to exaggerate whatever her mother-in-law commands in retaliation. In other words, if her mother-in-law asks her to cover her forehead, she will cover her whole face. Pavitra says that her mother-in-law has changed a lot.
  • 14. Youth, Gender and Citizenship study:
    • Actual outcomes: Has schooling made a difference to young men and women?
    • Potential or desirable outcomes : What could schooling do to make a positive difference?
  • 15. Manhood and womanhood in rural northern Ghana
    • Strong consensual notions of biological difference
      • Manhood (virility) confirmed both by types of work and sexual relations (sex, marriage, having a child)
      • Womanhood confirmed when a girl shows physical signs that she can have a child and do women’s work
    • Schooling seems to affect the age at which this happens; confuses the transition
  • 16. What women can do
    • Some people express this as
      • The ability to carry out independently household chores
      • Participate in female activities on the farm
      • Fetch and carry a large basin of water (a garawa) from the stream
      • ‘ good women’ could not choose their own husband. A man will choose his own wife. Wives meant to be silent in relationship.
  • 17. Schooling and the negotiation of gender relations
    • No recollection of what schooling might have taught about gender relations: respect
    • But: feelings of empowerment from schooling : getting the ‘upper hand in working life’ - female income generation bit of independence esp. if not only wife.
    • Fundamental issue is of social wisdom and social competence
  • 18. Social competence: subtle changes to gender relations
      • Literacy and private communications between the sexes – more cordial relations?
      • ‘ Educated’ young women expect very different patterns of spousal communication in both settings; some evidence that their husbands might be responding by treating their educated wives differently (chop money, joint decision making)
  • 19. Signs of the times?
      • Women are beginning to take on some tasks previously restricted to male labour e.g. fishing and farming.
      • Common tasks within schools (sweeping the floor)
      • Men learning to carry out domestic tasks e.g. useful if migrant for schooling or work ‘When boys go to school they will not sit waiting for food, they will start doing it’...
      • Greater awareness of gender inequalities within the home ‘we have seen that the girls suffer too much’
  • 20. Restricted Transitions: Women can do but she has a limit
    • Building a house: she can mould – get sand and cement for them to mould blocks. But stand in the mud and mix she cannot. Women can farm but .. A woman cannot farm mounds. They can do the rest of the jobs but not like men.
  • 21. Common themes: parental perceptions
    • Parental attitudes are often crucial impacts on transitions: ‘going along with schooling’ as long as it doesn’t threaten the conditions of wives
    • The pressure of childbirth remains massive:
      • ‘ My daughter is free to make any decision except giving birth to too few children … she should deliver as many as possible’
  • 22. Conclusions
    • The paper highlights the importance of situating the discussion of the impact of education on transitions to adulthood in the context of evolving indigenous gender cultures.
    • Micro-level changes of schooling offer the possibility of a subtle loosening of the constraints on women : schooling has the potential to open up the gendered division of labour for men and women alike.
  • 23. Relational autonomy and agency
    • In our settings the notion of autonomy, which is often assumed in the literature on transitions, is misleading, because it ignores how young people are embedded in relationships which are crucial to the development of young peoples’ identities
    • Young people are reconstructing their gendered cultural identities in the light of the different kinds of schooling they have experienced and the social meanings that these are given by the parental generation as well as by their own peers
  • 24. Educational Outcomes?
    • Secondary schooling can and does make a gender difference and opens up the possibility of greater flexibility of social relations.
    • Communities are in transition through schooling impacts on gender
    • Many thanks for listening.