Albinism in Tanzanian higher education: a case study

Kiishweko, Rose Rutagemwa (2017) Albinism in Tanzanian higher education: a case study. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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My thesis focuses on the experiences of people with albinism in higher education (HE)
in Tanzania. Albinism is a genetically inherited condition and it affects people of all
ethnic backgrounds worldwide. In Tanzania, the condition affects one in every 1,400
people. People with albinism in Tanzania often face social discrimination, superstition,
and prejudice including murder threats due to myths and beliefs that their body parts are
a source of wealth and prosperity. They also experience physical challenges including
threats from the African tropical sun and visual impairment. All these factors interact with
educational opportunities.
Information about the oppression, killings and amputation of body parts of people with
albinism in Tanzania has been widely reported in the media globally. However, albinism
remains socially under-researched and under-theorized – especially in relation to how it
interacts with HE opportunity structures. This research attempts to contribute to existing
literature and construct new insights into albinism and HE. In so doing, I draw upon a range
of theoretical approaches including Sarah Ahmed’s concept of affective economies and
fear of difference, Margaret Archer’s notions of the internal conversation and reflexivity
as well as various established feminist theorists such as Simone de Beauvoir to analyse
and explain issues arising from the study including misogyny. I also draw upon Pierre
Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic violence.
My research is a case study of albinism in HE in Tanzania. Using qualitative methods I
draw upon feminist methodological approaches, values and principles to explore albinism
and explain what constrains and enables students with the condition to interact with HE
opportunities. The data for this research were collected from 35 participants in Tanzania,
namely: 14 students with albinism (involving current and graduate students with albinism);
six teaching staff and five HE support staff members. Other participants included officials
from four non-governmental organisations (NGOs), four government officials, one parent
and one student reader/note-taker. I conducted 19 face-to-face semi-structured interviews
with six current students with albinism, three teaching staff, four NGO officials and four
government officials. Likewise, I conducted face-to-face semi-structured interviews with
one parent and one student reader. I also conducted one Skype interview with a current
student with albinism as well as three focus groups discussions with 14 participants.
The first group was of seven graduates with albinism, the second involved three teaching
staff and the third was of four HE support staff. I also used desk-based research methods,
conducting telephone conversations with 52 statistics officers in order to investigate
where students with albinism are located within HE in Tanzania. Looking at literature
and my research questions, the data were then compared across different participants and
universities to establish patterns and common themes among them.
The findings from this research indicated that the systems of power that work to oppress
people with albinism are multifaceted with structural, cultural and socio-economic
conditions. Some key findings included how people with albinism were subjected to
misogyny, myths and fear of the ‘other’. However, the 14 students with albinism in
this study demonstrated a high level of agency, creativity, autonomy and motivation to
improve their lives and thus overcome discriminatory social structures, oppression and
harassment. They also illustrated their commitments to contribute usefully to society
despite the constraints and limited support that they often encountered. Access to HE was
seen as a major way to transform their identity by challenging deeply ingrained social
prejudices, which often label people with albinism as having limited cognitive capacity.
The implications of this research are that government commitment will be required in
order to allocate sufficient funds to promote awareness of, and create change about,
albinism and the elimination of household poverty, particularly that of female-headed
households (FHH), as well as to adequately finance HE institutions so they can put in
place support services and arrangements for students with albinism.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DT History of Africa > DT0365 Eastern Africa > DT0436 Tanzania
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher education
L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC1390 Education of special classes of persons
R Medicine > RL Dermatology > RL0790 Pigmentations. Albinism
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2017 12:43
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2017 12:43

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