Botho – “I Am Because We are.” Constructing National Identity in the Midst of Ethnic Diversity in Botswana’s Junior Secondary Schools
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CitationMulimbi, Bethany. 2017. Botho – “I Am Because We are.” Constructing National Identity in the Midst of Ethnic Diversity in Botswana’s Junior Secondary Schools. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractMultiethnic states globally face the dilemma of how to negotiate ethnic diversity while promoting a unified national identity. In Botswana, a remarkable example of peace and stability in Sub-Saharan Africa, two highly visible discourses around national identity – one constructing national identity around the majority ethnic group’s culture and language, and the other of a tolerant, multicultural nation – currently compete across public spheres.
Formal schools are key institutions through which to observe the nature and effects of these competing discourses. State leaders use mass education as a vehicle to transmit an authorized version of national identity, through centralized education policies and curriculum. Yet schools are also sites in which ordinary teachers and students actively participate in constructing the nation.
This dissertation reports on comparative case studies of four junior secondary schools that vary in the ethnic composition of their student bodies and surrounding communities. The work analyzes one overarching question: How does national identity, as currently constructed and experienced in Botswana’s public junior secondary schools, account for the reality of ethnic diversity in the nation-state and its schools? The three papers that together comprise this dissertation approach the inquiry through different lenses. The first paper analyzes social studies curriculum, as written in the syllabus and textbooks and as taught by teachers, to consider how national identity is officially constructed. The second examines how Botswana’s schools respond to the multiculturalism of their student bodies, within the context of assimilationist and nationally centralized education policies and curriculum. The final paper considers how junior secondary schools shape the social identity development of adolescents as they negotiate how and why to enact ethnic versus national identities.
Overall, I find continuing dominance of majority Tswana language and culture in the content of public schools’ policies and curriculum in Botswana, which are then implemented with fidelity by teachers and administrators, regardless of the cultural composition and perceived needs of their student bodies. In each paper, I offer recommendations for how practitioners and policy makers might move forward in transforming multicultural discourse into multicultural school practices promoting the equality of all of Botswana’s students.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33052851