Capabilities and Barriers to Higher Education Aspirations Formation for Marginalised Migrants

  • Faith Mkwananzi


Focusing on the capabilities and barriers to higher educational aspirations formation, the author brings to the fore key challenges experienced by youth in contexts of disadvantage. An orientation to pre-migration illustrates the impact of economic and political structural on schooling experiences and how they influence educational aspirations and agency. The author’s use of Amartya Sen’s (1999) five instrumental freedoms (political freedoms, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency guarantees and protective security) demonstrates the conditions that either support or hinder capabilities formation among migrant youth. This helps to understand the current external capability context of these youth and the author discusses how fostering the conditions for these instrumental freedoms is key for development interventions directed at marginalised migrant youth.


  1. Alkire, S. (2005). Why the Capability Approach? Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 6(1), 115–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Appadurai, A. (2004). The Capacity to Aspire. In M. Walton & V. Rao (Eds.), Culture and Public Action (pp. 59–84). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Arneson, R. (2002). Egalitarianism. In N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from Accessed 16 February 2016.
  4. Avelino, F., & Rotmans, J. (2009). Power in Transition: An Interdisciplinary Framework to Study Power in Relation to Structural Change. European Journal of Social Theory, 12(4), 543–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The Forms of Capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (pp. 241–258). New York: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bozalek, V., & Leibowitz, B. (2012). An Evaluative Framework for a Socially Just Institution. In B. Leibowitz (Ed.), Higher Education for the Public Good: Views from the South (pp. 59–86). Sterling, VA: Trentham Books; Cape Town: Sun Media Stellenbosch.Google Scholar
  8. Callinicos, A. (2004). Making History: Agency, Structure, and Change in Social Theory (2nd ed.). London: Brill.Google Scholar
  9. Chinyoka, K. (2014). Causes of School Drop-Out Among Ordinary Level Learners in a Resettlement Area in Masvingo, Zimbabwe. Journal of Emerging Educational Research and Policy Studies, 5(3), 294–300.Google Scholar
  10. Clark, D. A. (2005). The Capabilities Approach: Its Development, Critique and Recent Advances (Working Paper No. 32). Oxford: Global Poverty Research Group. Retrieved from Accessed 29 May 2016.
  11. Davidsson, J. (2010). Community-Based Inclusive Development as a Strategy for Millennium Development Goals (Bachelor thesis). Department of Government Development Studies, Uppsala University. Retrieved from Accessed 27 May 2016.
  12. Deacon, A., & Mann, K. (1999). Agency, Modernity and Social Policy. Journal of Social Policy, 28(3), 413–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. DeJaeghere, J. (2016). Girls’ Educational Aspirations and Agency: Imagining Alternative Futures Through Schooling in a Low-Resourced Tanzanian Community. Critical Studies in Education.
  14. Dercon, S., & Krishnan, P. (2009). Poverty and the Psychosocial Competencies of Children: Evidence from the Young Lives Sample in Four Developing Countries. Children, Youth and Environments, 19(2), 138–163.Google Scholar
  15. Evans, P. (2002). Collective Capabilities, Culture and Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom. Studies in Comparative International Development, 37(2), 54–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fenton, S. (2010). Ethnicity (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  17. Ferrant, G., & Nowacka, K. (2015). Measuring the Drivers of Gender Inequality and Their Impact on Development: The Role of Discriminatory Social Institutions. Gender & Development, 23(2), 319–332. Scholar
  18. Ferry, N. M. (2006). Factors Influencing Career Choices of Adolescents and Young Adults in Rural Pennsylvania. Journal of Extension, 44(3). Retrieved from Accessed 18 June 2016.
  19. Fitzgerald, L. F., & Harmon, L. W. (2001). Women’s Career Development: A Postmodern Update. In F. T. L. Leong & A. Barak (Eds.), Contemporary Models in Vocational Psychology (pp. 207–230). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  20. Heward, C. (1999). Introduction: The New Discourses of Gender, Education and Development. In C. Heward & S. Bunwaree (Eds.), Gender, Education and Development: Beyond Access to Empowerment (pp. 1–14). London and New York: Zed Books Ltd.Google Scholar
  21. Human Development Report. (2015). Work for Human Development. Retrieved from Accessed 7 June 2016.
  22. Jungen, K. A. (2008). Parental Influence and Career Choice: How Parents Affect the Career Aspiration of Their Children. A Research Paper submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Master of Science Degree in Guidance and Counselling, University of Winscon-Stout. Retrieved from Accessed 20 May 2016.
  23. Kniveton, B. H. (2004). The Influences and Motivations on Which Students Base Their Choice of Career. Research in Education, 72, 47–59. Retrieved from Accessed 16 July 2016.
  24. LaBahn, J. (1995). Education and Parental Involvement in Secondary Schools: Problems, Solutions, and Effects. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved from http://www.edpsycinteractive/files/parinvol.html. Accessed 7 June 2016.
  25. Nussbaum, M. (2000). Women and Human Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. O’Brien, K. M., Friedman, S. M., Tipton, L. C., & Linn, S. G. (2000). Attachment, Separation, and Women’s Vocational Development: A Longitudinal Analysis. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 47(3), 301–315.Google Scholar
  27. Ray, D. (2006). Aspirations, Poverty, and Economic Change. In A. V. Banerjee, R. Benabo, & D. Mookherjee (Eds.), Understanding Poverty (pp. 409–421). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ray, D. (2016). Aspirations and the Development Treadmill. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 17(3), 309–323. Scholar
  29. Robeyns, I. (2005). The Capability Approach: A Theoretical Survey. Journal of Human Development, 6(1), 93–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sen, A. (1992). Inequality Re-examined. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Sen, A. (1999). Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Sen, A. (2009). The Idea of Justice. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  33. Tikly, L., & Barrett, A. (2011). Social Justice, Capabilities and the Quality of Education in Low Income Countries. International Journal of Educational Development, 31(1), 3–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Universities South Africa. (2015). Strategic Framework for Universities South Africa, 2015–2019. Retrieved from,%202015-2019.pdf. Accessed 15 August 2016.
  35. Unterhalter, E. (2002). The Capabilities Approach and Gendered Education: An Examination of South African Complexities. Theory and Research in Education, 1, 7–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Van Dijk, T. A. (1989). Structures of Discourse and Structures of Power. In J. A. Anderson (Ed.), Communications Yearbook 12 (pp. 18–59). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Retrieved from Accessed 7 June 2016.
  37. Walker, M. (2006). Higher Education Pedagogies: A Capabilities Approach. Maidenhead: Open University Press and the Society for Research into Higher Education.Google Scholar
  38. Walker, M., & Mkwananzi, F. (2015). Challenges in Accessing Higher Education: A Case Study of Marginalised Young People in One South African Informal Settlement. International Journal of Educational Development, 40, 40–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wangenge-Ouma, G. (2012, April 28). Tuition Fees and the Challenge of Making Higher Education a Popular Commodity in South Africa. Higher Education, 64(6) (Online First). Retrieved from Accessed 15 August 2016.
  40. Wangenge-Ouma, G., & Cloete, N. (2008). Financing Higher Education in South Africa: Public Funding, Nongovernment Revenue and Tuition Fees. South African Journal of Higher Education, 22(4), 906–919.Google Scholar
  41. Watts, M. (2013). The Complexities of Adaptive Preferences in Post-compulsory Education: Insights from the Fable of the Fox and Grapes. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 14(4), 503–519. Scholar
  42. Wells, T. R. (2013). Reasoning About Developments: Essays on Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach (PhD thesis). Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, Rotterdam.Google Scholar
  43. Whiston, S., & Keller, B. (2004). Expanding Research Concerning Family Influences on Career Development: Cultivating a Number of Brown Spots. The Counselling Psychologist, 32(4), 612–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wolff, J., & De-Shalit, A. (2007). Disadvantage. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wood, D., & Deprez, L. S. (2015). Re-imagining Possibilities for Democratic Education: Generative Pedagogies in Service to the Capability Approach. Learning for Democracy, 5(3), 5–31.Google Scholar
  46. Ziegler, H., Berthet, T., Atzmuller, R., Bonvin, J. M., & Kjeldsen, C. C. (2015). Towards a Capabilities Perspective on Vulnerable Young People in Europe: An Introduction. In H. Otto (Ed.), Facing Trajectories from School to Work: Towards a Capability Friendly Youth Policy in Europe (pp. 3–17). London and New York: Springer.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Faith Mkwananzi
    • 1
  1. 1.Higher Education and Human Development Research GroupUniversity of the Free StateBloemfonteinSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations