The Open University, United Kingdom
Oga Steve Abah, Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria
Chris High, Linnaeus University, Sweden
Fred Keraro, Egerton University, Kenya
Joanna Wheeler, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
This paper focuses on how learning exclusions can be researched through innovative, creative and collaborative approaches rooted in the arts and humanities, and in particular on the experiences of African early career researchers (ECRs) trying to build knowledge – and a career – in this area.
It draws on data generated through the iBali Network (AHRC-funded, 2017-2018). iBali brings together expert researchers, ECRs and practitioners from across Africa whose work coalesces around using participatory storytelling to tackle social issues, at the intersection of SDGs 1 (poverty), 3 (health), 4 (education), 5 (gender), 10 (inequalities) and 11 (cities and communities).
The iBali concept grew from a reflection on existing research into multiple, overlapping learning exclusions. Understandings of these exclusions tend to align with particular, singular agendas, for example the ‘plight of the girl-child’. Much work in this area draws on sophisticated analysis made possible through enhanced data generation but, while valuable, this can side-line lived experience, and the social dynamics of people and places that arts-approaches afford. Political de-prioritisation of studies of local history and culture and under-funding of arts and humanities departments in Africa means that scholars working at the education/arts/development intersection face a paucity of opportunities for networking, collaboration and dialogue. As a consequence, research into learning exclusions as well as the methodological training provided to academics researching education, predominantly sits outside the arts and humanities. iBali responds directly to this concern.
The paper highlights the narratives of ten ECRs and their reflections on how storytelling approaches with young people integrate international, scholarly and indigenous ideas, and help surface and give value to different forms of knowledge. It presents data generated through debates, activities and research at iBali Network events and suggests how the democratisation of knowledge about learning exclusions through the arts can represent a new trajectory for education research.