This study is a presentation of Zimbabwean refugee learner experiences. Children escaped political persecution and economic problems which affected Zimbabwe in the year 2008. Many of these children were abused and witnessed traumatic experiences, their close relatives and neighbours being executed in cold blood. This study was guided by three critical questions: i) who are the Zimbabwean refugee learners? ii) what were Zimbabwean refugee learners' migration experiences? and iii) what were Zimbabwean refugee learners' school experiences?
The study employed Bronfenbrenner's Social Ecological Model as its overarching theoretical framework. Each stage of the refugee experience was described at each point in time.
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Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks:
The previous chapter focused on review of literature related to refugee learner experiences. This chapter presents theoretical and conceptual frameworks guiding this study. A conceptual framework can be defined simply as a set of emerging interrelated concepts that are put together to explain a particular phenomenon. There are several different conceptualisations of a theoretical framework. According to Anfara and Mertz (2006) there is no clear and consistent definition of the term theoretical framework. For the purpose of this study, a theoretical framework is conceptualised from a comprehensive definition provided by Kerlinger (1973, p. 73): "A theory is a set of interrelated constructs (concepts), definitions, and propositions that present a systematic view of phenomena by specifying relations among variables, with the purpose of explaining and predicting the phenomena." Both theoretical and conceptual frameworks provide lenses through which research can be conducted and it is essential to have them in an academic piece of writing (Anfara & Mertz, 2006). In this study, conceptual and theoretical frameworks were used as analytical frameworks of refugee learner experiences.
This study adopts Bronfenbrenner's (1979) Social Ecological Model (as ist theoretical framework) which asserts that context and environment play fundamental roles in the development of a child. The model highlights that during the process of human growth and development, a person interacts with microsystems, mesosystems, exosystems, macrosystems and chronosystems. McBrien (2011) postulates that refugee experiences can be looked at from these systems' perspective. Refugee children's experiences are influenced by the context and environment which surrounds them. This chapter begins by discussing the social ecological model where each of the five systems is presented. The chapter also focuses on strengths and some criticisms leveled against the model, and an analytical context for understanding refugee learners' experiences is provided. A conceptual framework for understanding refugee learners' experiences is presented at the end of this chapter. The conceptual framework articulates that refugee learner experiences occur in three fundamental stages, namely: pre-migration, transmigration and post-migration.
3.2 Bronfenbrenner's Social Ecological Model:
Bronfenbrenner (1994) argues that human development can best be understood by considering the entire social ecological context in which growth takes place. Human development is a result of the mutual interaction between persons and the environment (Bronfenbrenner, 1992). A person has to interact with other people in his/her environment and that influences growth and development. Swart and Pettipher (2011) postulated that underlying Bronfenbrenner's theory is the proposition that when there is the interaction of an individual and the environment, development will certainly take place. When there is no interaction among humans in a given environment, children's growth will be compromised.
Kail and Cavanaugh (2010) contend that in the social ecological theory, human development cannot be separated from the environmental context that a person inhabits. Bronfenbrenner's ecological approach proposes that there is a close interconnection between various aspects of human development. The interconnection is very close, just like the threads of a spider's web are intertwined, so that no aspect of development can be isolated from others and understood independently (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010). Bronfenbrenner (1979, p. 3) argues that "all aspects of development are interconnected like a set of nested structures, each inside the other like a set of Russian dolls". Thus, understanding the growth and development of children requires a close examination of the environment in which they live. Environment influences children's development (Bronfenbrenner, 1995).
Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecological systems model assesses the development of children through the interaction of systems. This system is made up of five socially organised subsystems which help understand growth and development of humans. The subsystems are: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem and chronosystem.
The microsystem refers to the environment in which a developing person lives and the relationship that he/she has with proximal settings of family, school and peers (Bronfenbrenner, 1994). In other words, the microsystem entails an individual's interaction with proximal settings. It marks the first level of interaction and experience with other people and it begins with a child interacting with family. From family, the child interacts with peers and people at school. The microsystem analyses the relationship between the individual child and the immediate settings which have a direct impact on the developing child (Anderson et al., 2004). Peers, family, school and neighbours are very important in furthering growth and development of a child (Bronfenbrenner, 1999).
According to Bronfenbrenner (1994) the mesosystem comprises the link and various processes that take place between two or more settings surrounding the developing person, for example, relations between family and school, peers and neighbours, family and peers, and school and neighbours. The mesosystem comprises two or more microsystems (Bronfenbrenner, 1999). It manifests itself when there is an interaction of microsystems, for example, when peers become difficult to work with at school. Bronfenbrenner (1986) states that a common example of a mesosystem is that events that take place at a child's home have the potential of affecting his/her academic progress, and vice versa.
Bronfenbrenner (1992) refers to a mesosystem as a series of microsystems. It (mesosystem) shows the constant interaction and interdependence of schools, peers and family in the development of a child. In short, the mesosystem is a system that shows the interaction of microsystems (Masten & Obradovic, 2008). It is also formed whenever a child moves from one setting to another (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). When a family relocates to a new place, children will interact with new neighbours, peers and the school. When these new microsystems interact, the mesosystem will be formed.
According to Bronfenbrenner (1979, p. 25) an exosystem is defined as:
"One or more settings that do not involve the developing person as an active participant, but in which events occur that affect, or are affected by, what happens in the setting containing the developing person".
Kail and Cavanaugh (2010) postulate that an example of exosystem could be the change of governmental policies concerning welfare of poor children. When policies change, it lessens opportunities for the attainment of school experiences by poor children. The exosystem also refers to the influence that a community has. This includes the community's established norms, values, standards and general social networks (Masten & Obradovic, 2008). A developing learner may not be directly involved in the community activities, but he/she will be influenced by living in it. Bronfenbrenner (1986) asserts that in modern, industrialized societies, three different exosystems are likely to impact on the growth and development of the child. The impact occurs primarily through influence on family processes, and these are:
i) The parents' workplace.
Ii) The parents' social networks; and.
Iii) The community influences on family functioning (Bronfenbrenner, 1986).
When parents are stressed and affected in a negative way at their work place or social networks, this will subsequently affect children at home who have direct contact with them (parents). Bronfenbrenner (1986) postulates that an exosystem occurs when a developing child is affected not only by events happening around him/her, but also by what happens to parents or caregivers in their respective settings such as work and social places. Although children do not enter into their parents' settings, they are affected by what affects their caregivers. Thus, the exosystem has an indirect impact on a developing child.
Although the influence of an exosystem is indirect, ist effects on human development can be quite strong (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010). For example, Bronfenbrenner (1986) postulates that a husband's unemployment can result in a loss of status in the family, a strong increase in tensions and disagreements, and a decrease in social life outside the home. That results in the father becoming depressed, moody and impolite to his children at home. The father's loss of job indirectly affects the developing child because of disruptive behaviour that he may show through his emotions.
Another domain of exosystem which children have limited access to, but would be affected by indirectly is their parents' social acquaintances with friends (Bronfenbrenner, 1986). When parents are unhappy or affected in their social networks, this may eventually come down to a child who will have direct contact with a parent when he/she comes home. An exosystem entails experiences in which a developing child does not have an active role to play. It includes the influence of the education system, local health care, welfare services and family friends (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010). When a child is affected by broader issues such as national policies, political and economic structures, the macrosystem will be formed.
According to Bronfenbrenner (1994, p. 40):
"The macrosystem consists of the overarching patter of micro-, meso-, and exosystems characteristic of a given culture or subculture, with particular reference to the belief systems, bodies of knowledge, material resources, customs, lifestyles, opportunity structures, hazards, and life course options that are embedded in each of these broader systems".
The macrosystem can be seen as the norms, values, attitudes, beliefs and ideologies which someone gets from the society in which he/she will be living. It can be viewed as a societal blueprint for a particular culture (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; 1992). In this study, the macrosystem represents interaction on a broader scale when refugees are influenced by the social and cultural norms of a country. The macrosystem forms when an individual is influenced by political issues and economic status of a country. The progression of all the systems (micro, meso, exo and macro) happens over a period of time and that forms the chronosystem.
Bronfenbrenner (1994, p. 40) states that:
"A chronosystem encompass change of consistency over time not only in the characteristics of the person, but also of the environment in which that person lives (e.g. changes over the life course in family structure, socioeconomic status, employment, place of residence, or the degree of hecticness and ability in everyday life)".
According to Swart and Pettipher (2011) the chronosystem summarises the length of time and how it relates to the interactions between micro-, meso-, exo- and macrosystems, and their influences on the growth and development of a child. An example of this would be the apartheid system and how ist history has impacted on many children in many different ways in South Africa (Swart & Pettipher, 2011).
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