Perceptions and experiences of urban school, home and neighbourhood learning spaces, and implications for pedagogy in Tanzanian primary schools: A comparative case study

Rhona Brown
School of Education, College of Social Sciences, University of Glasgow
June 2022

Tanzanian children and their perceptions and experiences are almost invisible in education research, though they are frequently represented in national learning outcomes scores or school enrollment statistics. This, combined with the widely recognised issue of large class sizes and common depictions of teacher-directed pedagogies has resulted in the default characterisation of Tanzanian primary children as a passive, struggling mass. This thesis sets out to challenge this portrayal and enrich the evidence-base by connecting pupils’ stories with wider discourses of learning and education, stretching across school, home and neighbourhood spaces and linking the local to the national and international.

Using a comparative case study design, the study investigates perceptions and experiences of learning in and out of school, and implications for pedagogy in two urban primary schools in Tanzania. Here, space is conceptualised as socially produced and relational; places such as home and school are not static, bounded containers but rather are created by distinct interactions of social, cultural, political and material trajectories, stretching far beyond the local, and changing over time. Multiple methods were used with children and adults to gain insight into how different learning spaces are produced and the effects they have on learning and pedagogy.

Three pupil ‘stories-so-far’ are presented which illustrate the children’s lives holistically as they traverse home and school spaces. Trajectories of togetherness stand out in children’s accounts of home and neighbourhood. However, their stories are interrupted in the crowded classroom as they and their teachers negotiate multiple trajectories. The wider analysis explores trajectories of togetherness further, revealing the ways that togetherness bends and warps over time as it intersects with other trajectories creating spaces which, in turn, produce distinct, and sometimes unintended and negative social and pedagogical effects. Educational interventions and reforms can be seen as entering a complex constellation of trajectories, where consideration of anticipated interactions and negotiations is essential. Harmful collisions and clashes need to be avoided if we are to open up more meaningful learning spaces and allow children’s ‘stories-so-far’ to enter and enhance the classroom.



Current affiliation: Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures Network, University of Bristol

Full thesis available at: