In Our Own Voices
: A Critical Participatory Study of the Wellbeing of Female Undergraduate Students in Nigeria

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

The subjective wellbeing of female undergraduate students in Nigeria has received little research attention. This study explores the issue through the lens of postcolonial feminism, focusing on the lived experiences, ‘voices’ and perspectives of fifteen female students at a case study university in the South-East of Nigeria. Using the theoretical frameworks of subjective wellbeing and the capability approach to gender justice, the study fills a gap in female students’ wellbeing literature in Nigeria.

A critical participatory methodology enhanced the study with the female students as co-constructors of knowledge. The wider influences on their capabilities for wellbeing are also investigated through interaction with secondary sources, including interviews with a male student, staff members and key documents. The other methods used to collect data were observations and fieldnotes, campus walks, and participatory group sessions with mapping and vignettes. Thematic and interactional approaches are employed in the analysis and interpretation of the collected data.

The study argues that first, a clearer distinction should be made between the terms subjective and personal in wellbeing discourse. It establishes that wellbeing is a Eurocentric term that does not generally reflect the realities of the Nigerian higher education context; rather the term welfare is more commonly used and understood. Second, there is a need for increased awareness and the provision of students’ mental health services and resources, including gender-related guidance and counselling that is crucial to personal wellbeing. Third, the wellbeing of female students is influenced by numerous external welfare factors specific to the Nigerian higher education context, which constitute five dimensions namely, socio-cultural, political, environmental, academic and economic aspects. Fourth, it is essential to empower the female student and develop her personal wellbeing, human capabilities and agency as well as establish collective action with others.
The thesis contributes to knowledge by developing a new map which highlights that the interaction between the intrinsic self and extrinsic aspects of context, constitutes the personal welfare and wellbeing capabilities of female undergraduate students in Nigeria. The map will also be useful to researchers working with groups that are different from, albeit with some similarities to, this target group. Recommendations are made for ways to support female students’ wellbeing through theory on decolonising women in postcolonial Africa; policy in Nigeria and in higher education institutions; and practice at the case study institution on gender, mental health, transformative pedagogy and student engagement. The thesis concludes with implications for further research and the importance of the self-empowering role of female students in achieving their own wellbeing capabilities.
Date of Award29 Sep 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorLeon P Tikly (Supervisor) & Angeline M Barrett (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Female undergraduate students
  • Wellbeing
  • Capability Approach
  • Gender justice
  • Postcolonial feminism
  • Critical participatory research

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