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Author ORCID Identifier


Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Jacqueline Mosselson

Subject Categories

International and Comparative Education


Despite the existence of a re-admission policy in Malawi, many young mothers do not return to school after pregnancy. Utilizing a mixed methods participatory-social justice (MMP/SJ) design, this dissertation addresses the barriers to school re-entry by: (1) examining and describing how pregnant learners and school-aged mothers navigate and negotiate experiences related to schooling post-pregnancy, and (2) identifying a support framework that ensures continued learning and an enabling policy environment that allows equitable education for pregnant learners and school-aged mothers in Malawi. The MMP/SJ design centered on a community-based Participatory Action Research (PAR) strategy that incorporated photovoice and survey methods to engage with a total of 100 participants aged between 14-21 who were either pregnant or school-aged mothers. I conducted the fieldwork in Mangochi, Malawi, which is a district that recorded the highest number of adolescent pregnancies in 2020. Key findings from this study highlight critical relationships between school re-entry post-pregnancy and school-based and home-based factors such as familial support, teacher engagement, peer-to-peer interactions, and night schools—all with the self at the center. In this study, only 15% of the participants ever returned to school after delivery. The visual and textual narratives participants shared highlighted various complex and nuanced experiences that centered on the following eight themes and narratives: (1) social-class structures choices; (2) alternative schools as sights of belonging and liberation (3) juvenescence, coming of age, and sexual desires; (4) pursuit of motherhood as a push factor; (5) “sinning against parents” vs. agency; (6) teachers’ negative attitudes as a form of push-out; and (7) teacher-related support from continued schooling. Regarding support for re-entry, this study argues for an inclusive-oriented pedagogy of schooling post-pregnancy that is grounded within Indigenous cultural values, centers on women’s agency, and offers teaching and learning to pregnant/mothering students through continuation-oriented approaches that resist exclusionary practices both inside and outside the classroom. Theoretically, this study draws from the lens of critical liberatory pedagogy and Afro-feminism(s) that center on decolonial and emancipatory practices within education policy and practice. Putting these two theoretical frameworks together, this dissertation research utilizes what I call the Critical Afro-Feminist Education (CAFE) framework.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Available for download on Sunday, May 26, 2024