The moral ecology of South Africa's township youth (IKASI) 2004-05: Western Cape. Interviews 1 and 3 - A qualitative study

Resource Type
  • Swartz, Sharlene
  • Human Sciences Research Council
Publication Date
Embargo End Date
Funding Reference
  • Association for Moral Education
  • Cambridge Commonwealth Trust
  • Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Trust
  • Harvey Fellows Programme of the Mustard Seed Foundation
  • Homerton College
  • The Cambridge European Trust
  • The Cambridge Faculty of Education
  • The Canon Collins Educational Trust for Southern Africa
  • The Newby Trust
Free Keywords
  • Abstract

    Description: The data set consists of 37 first and 34 third transcribed interviews with South Africa's township youth in the Western Cape. Participants came from one class in a Langa township school, and from one class in a nearby suburban school. The sample is 37, 31 from the township school and 6 from the suburban school. The six participants from the suburban school all live in Langa. Not all participants from the township school live in Langa.

    Abstract: Voices of young people who live in a context of poverty are largely unheard in the study of morality. Instead moral debates are dominated by strictly bounded academic discourses, official calls for 'moral regeneration' and moral panics. Furthermore, the emphasis on individual moral development has neglected the socio-cultural contexts of young people's moral formation. In contrast, this study offers a complex youth ethnography of the moral sphere that explores how young people living in a context of poverty understand the concept of morality and how this construction facilitates their processes of moral formation. The study is located in Langa, a peri-urban township (ikasi) near Cape Town, South Africa, and follows 37 young men and women aged between 14 and 20, over the course of a year. The majorities of youth were in Grade 9 and attended a township school, while a small group attended a nearby suburban school. The research design combines the usual elements of ethnography with multiple creative methods designed to engage youth over the course of a year. Included in these methods are: auto photography, free lists, mind maps and a rank ordering activity. The study produces findings in three main areas. On a descriptive level, it provides an account of the moral lives of vulnerable young people from within a context of partial-parenting, partial-schooling, pervasive poverty and inequality, and in the aftermath of the moral injustices of Apartheid. On an analytical level, it shows how these young people exhibit conventional values in some areas, contested values in others as well as postmodern values especially regarding authority and self-authorization. It identifies young people's social representations of morality as action (what you do), as embodied (who you are and who others are to you) and as located or inevitable (where you are i.e. in school, at home, off the streets, or simply in ikasi. On a theoretical level it offers the term moral capital, and moral ecology to broaden discourse on young people's moral lives.

Temporal Coverage
  • 2004 / 2005
Geographic Coverage
  • South Africa (ZA)
Sampled Universe
N=37 young people who reside or went to school the in the suburb of Langa which is located in the Western Cape were included in this study. All 37 participants participated in the first individual interview, 35 participated in a second interview (focussed on photographs taken about their moral lives) and 34 in a third interview.
Access to schools: The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) was approached for permission to conduct research in state schools. School selection: Both township and suburban schools were included in a list of possible schools so that the researcher would have a range of youth included in the study. Of the eight schools chosen, five were in Langa and three were suburban-based schools. Heads of schools were telephoned or met with and five of the eight schools were amenable to having research conducted in the schools. As most of the township schools were similar, the one with easiest accessibility (close to a main thoroughfare) was selected and similarly one suburban school was selected. Sampling process: The sampling process began with an initial period of observation at the two schools until the researcher became familiar enough with the students to approach them for participation in the study. A group of six Grade 11 young women became a "Reference Group" and the stimulus instruments were piloted with this group. The actual target group was Grade 9 pupils as this group of young people are in middle adolescence and were considered mature enough to discuss abstract phenomena , communicate views and have accumulated a level of life experience that sets them apart from their younger counterparts. The table on p. 58 in the thesis provides a summary of the composition of the sample. Please refer to the thesis for this project at the following link:
Time Dimension
  • Other
    Other, This study adopted ethnographic approaches to understanding young people's lives and how they speak about their lives. Multiple creative methods were used to engage youth including: Participant observation, outings and activities, home visits, digital documentaries (photovoice), adventure camps, Free lists, Group Interviews, Individual interviews and Mind maps.
By accessing the data, you give assurance that The data and documentation will not be duplicated, redistributed or sold without prior approval from the rights holder. The data will be used for scientific research or educational purposes only. The data will only be used for the specified purpose. If it is used for another purpose the additional purpose will be registered. Redundant data files will be destroyed. The confidentiality of individuals/organisations in the data will be preserved at all times. No attempt will be made to obtain or derive information from the data to identify individuals/organisations. The HSRC will be acknowledged in all published and unpublished works based on the data according to the provided citation. The HSRC will be informed of any books, articles, conference papers, theses, dissertations, reports or other publications resulting from work based in whole or in part on the data and documentation. For archiving and bibliographic purposes an electronic copy of all reports and publications based on the requested data will be sent to the HSRC. To offer for deposit into the HSRC Data Collection any new data sets which have been derived from or which have been created by the combination of the data supplied with other data. The data team bears no responsibility for use of the data or for interpretations or inferences based upon such uses. Failure to comply with the End User License may result in sanctions being imposed.

Update Metadata: 2021-01-13 | Issue Number: 1353 | Registration Date: 2016-09-01