Being an adolescent orphan in the context of sexual violence: a participatory visual methodology study in and around a township secondary school in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa.
Ngidi, Ndumiso Daluxolo.
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The study reported in this thesis examined the vulnerability and agency of a group of adolescent orphans in the context of sexual violence in and around a township secondary school. This qualitative study was located within a transformative paradigm and employed a participatory visual methodology in its objective to pursue the notion of research as intervention. Located in one co-educational secondary school in the Inanda, Ntuzuma and Kwamashu township precinct, in KwaZulu-Natal, the study involved 27 adolescents aged 14-17 years, and in Grades eight to 10, who identified as ‘double orphans’ (i.e., those who had lost both their biological parents). To generate data, the study used drawing, collage, photovoice, storyboards and participants’ written reflections as modes of inquiry and representation. These were supplemented by data generated through interpretive group discussion and my own researcher field notes. Data analysis occurred in three layers: the first two layers involved the participants’ own analysis of their visual artefacts, the captions they wrote and the explanations they gave about them during the interpretive group discussions. The third layer involved my own thematic analysis of the participants’ data. The theoretical framework that informed data analysis in the study involved, first, the Frankfurt School’s critical theory, which suggests that inquiry must emphasise the creation of a sense of consciousness where participants are able to identify and communicate their vulnerability to sexual violence in and around their school. From this perspective, the study was premised on the notion that the emancipation of adolescent orphans from sexual violence is possible if safe spaces are created in which they can freely analyse their victimisation and critically imagine strategies for curbing/ending it. The second theory used in the study is Mezirow’s (1978) transformative learning theory, which posits that given a safe space and tools (involving the use of participatory visual methodology) to communicate their perspectives, adolescent orphans can become critical, engaged and active agents who can envision possibilities for social change in the context of sexual violence. The findings in this study illustrate the ways in which I used PVM to engage adolescent orphans in identifying, understanding and communicating their vulnerability to sexual violence in and around their township secondary school. However, the findings also point to gendered differences in how both boys and girls in this study were able to communicate their vulnerability. Specifically, the findings revealed that orphaned girls found it easier to articulate their vulnerability to sexual violence, while the orphaned boys tended to be silent about their own vulnerability. Finally, the participants identified the tools and strategies for addressing sexual violence, including structural and emotional support strategies, as well as retribution and punishment for perpetrators. The findings reinforced the idea that PVM can be a tool for research as intervention. In other words, provided with the right tools (through the use of PVM) and a safe space to engage freely as knowledge producers, adolescent orphans in this study were able to explore and articulate both their vulnerability to sexual violence and to identify the tools and resources they needed to address it. Informed by these findings as well as the literature reviewed, this thesis proposes that in the context of sexual violence, providing a safe space and using PVM with adolescent orphans has the power to excavate the silenced voices of children who are often marginalised; in doing so, this approach develops their agency to address violence.