Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Jennifer N. Fish

Committee Member

Sabine Hirschauer

Committee Member

Chris R. Glass


Centering on the perceptions of black South African girl learners from impoverished township communities provides a new informed lived knowledge regarding social and educational inequality in the nation’s post-apartheid era. Perspectives from intersectional feminist theory and Black Feminist Thought offer an appropriate and unique approach to analyze the multiple socio-economic inequalities these girl learners face every day. By gathering original narrative data from a group of girls, their teachers, and the principal of Fezeka Secondary School in Gugulethu, South Africa, the intersections of inequality these girls face will be illuminated as critical factors to consider for policy and program aid initiatives. By gathering the narratives of these girls and members of the school, the challenges girls face in their journey towards secondary education completion and access to university education will be situated in the larger historical context and social structure of South Africa. This thesis also analyzes original data from the founders of international education NGO Education without Borders, which has a longstanding history at the school, and focuses on the ways that this organization and many others like it could bring more meaningful and necessary change to girl learners. Both international and national policy and program efforts centered on education development must consider the multiple oppressions a given group of learners face, and by implementing group produced knowledge, work to understand how these oppressions coexist and interact. The findings from this study demonstrate that girls not only provide a more informed perspective of the social challenges that personally affect them, but also that these narratives could improve the reach and success of education policy and program initiatives. The study demonstrates through the case study of Education without Borders how an organization’s openness to incorporate girls’ perspectives can lead to more appropriate and effective educational development and change.