An exploration of African-student agency: Placing students from historically disadvantaged communities at the centre


  • Desireé Pearl Larey University of the Free State, South Africa



African-student agency, critical horizontal knowledges, historically disadvantaged communities, South Africa, specialised consciousness


At the national universities within South Africa, various events during the past years indicate that students suffer under different kinds of oppression. It is widely acknowledged that students from poor, rural geographical areas find the university space alienating and not speaking to their life worlds. In this paper I respond to Fataar’s (2019) notion of the “misrecognised” university student in the South African context. My focus on students coming from historically disadvantaged communities aims to contribute to ongoing debates about social justice for students in the university sector. The problem to be addressed in this paper is the misalignment between the critical horizontal knowledge of
historically disadvantaged students and the knowledge codes of the university relating to learning, curriculum, and pedagogical practices. I therefore argue that if university institutional practices recognise, embrace, and align with students’ agency, resilience and adaption, a reframed institutional platform could engage students in their intellectual becoming. Furthermore, I am guided by two questions: 1) How can students from historically disadvantaged communities use their critical horizontal knowledges to connect with disciplinary and transdisciplinary knowledge of the university to enhance critical specialised consciousness in the becoming of ethical humans? and 2) How can an African theorisation of student agency form the basis to consciously reframe the core institutional function of the university? In responding to these questions, I locate my arguments in African-student agency, reviewing literature by African scholars to gain an understanding of the African concept of student agency.


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How to Cite

Larey, D. P. (2023). An exploration of African-student agency: Placing students from historically disadvantaged communities at the centre. Perspectives in Education, 41(4).



Research articles