Peer support and education quality in sub-Saharan Africa: a critical interpretive synthesis of school-based research

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This paper concerns an aspect of schooling in sub-Saharan Africa which receives insufficient attention in the official education discourse of high-level policy documents, consultancy reports and teacher education programmes – namely, that students themselves often bear educational responsibilities for the access and learning of their peers. Informed by postcolonial and decolonial scholarship, this critical interpretive synthesis (CIS) of school-based research from the region provides a taxonomy of students’ roles and responsibilities with respect to the education of their peers. The study reveals positive and negative aspects of peer support. The expectation of mutual support amongst students reflects a collectivist orientation in the region, and the material realities of teaching and learning in historically under-resourced environments. Where peer support focuses on improving learning then evidence is largely positive for those giving and receiving support; however, where students’ access to education is reliant on peers (which is the case for many disadvantaged learners, including children with disabilities and those from linguistic minorities) then the adequacy of these arrangements is questionable. Peer support cannot compensate for exclusionary policies and underinvestment in necessary professional support and infrastructure. The study finds peer support is a key and neglected aspect of education quality in the region. The implications of this for progress towards global and regional policy priorities are considered, alongside lessons for research and practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Development
Publication statusSubmitted - 4 Jun 2021


  • critical interpretive synthesis
  • education in Africa
  • education quality
  • inclusive education
  • peer learning
  • peer support
  • Ubuntu


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