Engaging on xenophobia and migration in township high schools

An IFAS-Research seminar

Researchers Jeanne Bouyat (CERI, SciencesPo | CUBES, Wits University | InSHS, CNRS) and Léo Fortaillier (LaSSP, Sciences Po Toulouse | University of the Western Cape) will mobilize their research experience to discuss the place of migration and xenophobia in South African township high schools.


18 June 2018 | 15:00 to 16:30

IFAS-Research | Johannesburg

IFAS-Research Conference Room, 62 Juta Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg


Why this seminar?


Post-apartheid schools in South Africa have an explicit mandate to redress past discriminations and are the most strategic sites of implementation of the government strategy to foster nation-building and social cohesion. In a context of increasing negative societal attitudes and violence towards African and Asian international migrants, the Ministry of Basic Education reaffirmed this mandate in specifically addressing xenophobia.

However, beyond this statement of commitment, the curricula and officially approved textbooks designed to assist educators to engage on the sensitive topics of xenophobia and discriminations with learners remain elusive and short. Government-sponsored programs in schools have limited funding to sustain interventions and partnering with NGOs. How do teachers and external facilitators then attempt to talk about these topics with the students? This seminar explores these pedagogic practices through a focus on public high schools located in township areas of Johannesburg and Cape Town among which some have been affected by xenophobic violence.

In these complex educational contexts, strongly marked by the legacy of segregated schooling, the “street-level bureaucrats” that teachers and facilitators are must deal with organisational dynamics (scarcity of resources, funders requirements, etc.) and unpredictability in the daily running of the schools. They must also often confront the reluctance of colleagues, parents and learners to engage on these difficult topics that often resonates with the local violence. This tends to lead them to avoid or limit the discussions: schools may rarely provide the needed platform for learners to engage on xenophobia and other discriminations.

In the two cases presented here, the researcher had been actively involved in designing, observing and at times facilitating activities with teachers and NGOs to develop critical pedagogies on these topics. This ethnographic collaborative research allows to unpack the “practical dilemmas” and “repertoires of contention” of these “street-level bureaucrats” associated with the manufacture of a pedagogy of disruptive knowledge in townships. It also questions the role of the researcher in these processes. In contrasting these unusual experimental practices of secondary school teachers and of members of NGOs, the seminar sheds a light on the practical implications of the contradictory mandates of education at school within and beyond the official curricula.


Seminar structure


> A teacher-researcher coproduction of disruptive education on stereotypes and migration: tensions in anti-xenophobia approaches

Building on her partnership with a Soweto public high school of as part of her PhD, Jeanne Bouyat aims to reflect on the process of coproducing a series of lessons on stereotypes and migration. After unpacking its institutional and political context, she will single out practical challenges and various impacts of this experimental collaboration. Special focus will be layed on the tensions between various approaches to counter xenophobia, and their practical implications in a classroom when doing co-teaching.


Jeanne Bouyat is a PhD student at the Centre de Recherches Internationales (CERI, Sciences Po Paris), a visiting scholar at the Centre for Urbanism and the Built Environment Studies (CUBES, Wits University) and a InSHS contractual researcher (CNRS). She did her Master’s dissertation on attitudes towards foreign-ness of high school learners in Johannesburg, and her current research focusses on practices of high school staff towards foreign-ness in popular urban neighbourhoods in South Africa. She also took part in seminars on related topics, such as the 2016 IFAS-Research seminar on The Institutionalization of Xenophobia in the contemporary South African State.



> Engaging on xenophobia and migration in township high schools: a ‘NGOised approach?’

Following the 2008 xenophobic outbreak, Capetonian “migrants rights NGOs” have been implementing social cohesion programs to bridge the gap between foreign nationals and South Africans, especially in local townships. Léo Fortaillier will focus here on the activities of three different organisations at the school level, using the data collected during participatory observations. After highlighting how and why these NGOs answer differently to similar challenges, he will comment on the designing and implementation of an awareness-raising board game.


Léo Fortaillier is a doctoral student from the Laboratoire des Sciences Sociales du Politique (Sciences Po Toulouse), the École Doctorale Temps, Espaces, Sociétés, Cultures (Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès) and an invited researcher at the Department of Political Studies of the University of the Western Cape. Since January 2016 he has been focusing on the implementation of social cohesion programs between South Africans and migrants by NGOs in the Western Cape region.


These presentations will be followed by brief comments from a research collaborator and by Tara Polzer Ngwato (Director and Head of Research at Social Surveys Africa), and by an open floor discussion.