An investigation into barriers to participation in adult learning among refugees: The case of the Somalis in the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town
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This study seeks to investigate barriers to participation in adult learning among Somali refugees in Cape Town. It draws on scholarship around various conceptual frameworks on migration perspectives, and barriers to participation in adult learning, as lenses to understand and explain the experiences of the Somali refugee community. The Refugee Act of 1998 was promulgated post-democracy in South Africa. One of the objectives of this Act was to redress past inequalities by providing access to education for all the people of South Africa including foreigners who are refugees or immigrants legally settled in the country. Due to various challenges, not all refugees and migrants have access to education that would provide them with the necessary skills to enter the job market. Without access to the formal labour market, they resort to informal activities that enable them to generate cash and sustain livelihoods. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the gender dimension is important since women particularly are subject to prejudices and disadvantages that deny them entry into the labour market, both informal and formal. This study therefore investigated barriers to participation in adult learning among refugees. One of the main purposes of the research was to examine the impediments, which inhibit both men and women refugees from access to a decent education and opportunities for adult learning in South Africa. The methodology adopted was a qualitative research design. Through focused, in-depth interviews with a sample grouping of a Somali refugee community, insights were obtained into the challenges and blockages to learning access that are prevalent. The sample size comprised 50 participants: 25 males and 25 females, which were arrived at using the snowball sampling technique. An in-depth interview protocol guided the discussion, which was intended to elicit personal narratives. The findings of the study revealed that both men and women experience institutional, situational, dispositional and academic barriers, which prevent them from participating in adult learning programmes and other learning opportunities in spite of their willingness to do so. However, women particularly suffer from a lack of access due to cultural and religious norms, which limit their participation as women learners. This additional barrier proved to be a substantive situational barrier that did not affect Somali men. This study makes several recommendations that are based on the research findings. Participants generally desired sufficient access to adult learning programmes, harmonious living and integration within communities, and to employment opportunities, education funding support, and increased public awareness of such learning opportunities through seminars and workshops.