Peer support in sub-Saharan Africa: A critical interpretive synthesis of school-based research

Rafael Mitchell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
66 Downloads (Pure)


This paper concerns an aspect of schooling in sub-Saharan Africa which receives limited attention in official education discourse – 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 such 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, both 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. This study finds that 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
Article number102686
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Development
Early online date23 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am grateful to Angeline Barrett, Michael Crossley, Arathi Sriprakash, Leon Tikly and the two anonymous reviewers for valuable feedback on this article, and to colleagues at UKFIET 2019 and the CIE Research Cafe (University of Sussex) where earlier versions of this paper were presented. Support for the study was provided by the Staff Research and Scholarship Fund (School of Education, University of Bristol), and United Kingdom Research and Innovation ( UKRI ) Global Challenges Research Fund ( GCRF ), grant ES/T002646/1 as part of the Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures (TESF).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


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


Dive into the research topics of 'Peer support in sub-Saharan Africa: A critical interpretive synthesis of school-based research'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this