South African Journal of Education

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Academic identities of black female first-year students

MN Toni, MAJ Olivier


Since 1994 South Africa has been in the process of transformation and redress. People are taking up their right to education and are also taking full advantage of the fact that all institutions of higher learning are open to all citizens of the country. Research shows that black students who attend predominantly black institutions benefit from a supportive social, cultural, and racial environment that enhances their successful adaptation to the academic demands of undergraduate study. This kind of support may be lacking in the new dispensation. It was therefore important to find out whether this applies to current black female students in predominantly white institutions, and specifically at the University of Port Elizabeth. It has been argued that adolescents, who have the universal task of stabilizing their identity, might be influenced by recent transformation. This process of transformation includes the paradigm shift of restricting females to a few stereotyped roles. Late-adolescents often find themselves studying at a university, which consequently leads to the question whether new academic identities are emerging among black female students and, if so, what they are. The primary purpose of the research was therefore to determine how these students see themselves academically in a transforming academic environment. A qualitative method of research was used for the investigation. Analysis of the transcribed interviews was done and trustworthiness was ensured. Ethical measures were also adhered to. This article provides a detailed reflection on the results of the research, namely that the academic identities of black female adolescents are directed by their life goals, charged by specific feelings and characterised by their experiences. General guidelines are also presented in this regard.

South African Journal of Education Vol.24(3) 2004: 194-199

AJOL African Journals Online