Dissertation Abstracts

"I Stay With My Sister": Children's Everyday Life in the Suburbs of Maputo

Author: Colonna, Elena , elenamaputo@yahoo.it
Department: Instituto de Educação
University: Universidade do Minho, Portugal
Supervisor: Manuel Jacinto Sarmento
Year of completion: 2012
Language of dissertation: Portuguese

Keywords: Children , Mozambique , Child Caregiving , Urban Space
Areas of Research: Childhood , Family Research


Based on the assumptions of the Sociology of Childhood, which considers children as social actors and childhood as a social and cultural construction, this study aims to investigate the specific experience of “being a child” for children living in a suburb of Maputo, Mozambique. The fieldwork, developed over a period of 18 months, was divided into two stages. The first phase took place in a primary school, so as to get in contact with children and have an overview of their everyday lives and of the ways they represent them. Research activities involved three classes of 6th grade for a total of about 120 children, aged between 10 and 17. This stage was also useful for identifying the children who wanted to participate in the second part of the research. The second phase was developed out of school, accompanying the children in their daily lives at home, outdoors and wherever else they went. Initially, this stage involved few children of the first group. But, through snowball sampling, an significant number of other children and some adults, who were relatives, friends, or neighbours of the first group children, also took an active role in the research process. The main methodology used was ethnography, complemented by a set of tools inspired by the visual and participatory methodologies, including interviews, focus groups, small role plays, informal conversations (oral techniques), photographs, videos, drawings (visual techniques) and essays and diaries (writing techniques).
From the relevant amount of generated data, the study focuses on three main areas of everyday life of children: organization and use of daily time, characterized by routines and events; mobility of children in public space, especially in the neighborhood but also in other contexts; finally, children's work and, in particular, child and sibling caregiving. Each of these aspects is discussed in terms of practices and representations. The results show that the experiences of children who participated in the research, apparently “out of place” in relation to the hegemonic and Eurocentric model of childhood, make sense when studied in the framework of local social and cultural values and conditions. Finally, the study contributes to reveal the agency of children and their active participation in family life.