Of bellies and books: (re)positioning the subject within the education/pregnancy nexus in Mozambique

Salvi, Francesca (2014) Of bellies and books: (re)positioning the subject within the education/pregnancy nexus in Mozambique. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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‘Of Bellies and Books’ refers to pregnancy and formal education, constructed as
mutually exclusive processes. This thesis explores that opposition by tracing the
confluence of discourses through which it is produced. In so doing, it dissolves
dichotomies and proposes a shift to the subject as both constituted by and constituting of

Both academic research and global and national social policy construct teenage
pregnancy as problematic. This is heightened in development contexts, where in-school
pregnancy triggers Malthusian fears of overpopulation and consequential poverty
increase. Conversely, formal education and training are represented as a means to
personal development and success, through acquiring knowledge and skills leading to
formal employment and individual empowerment. In this sense, schooling is
constructed as a symbol of - or entrance to - modernity, while pregnancy and
parenthood are defined in terms of the opportunities they prevent. From this
perspective, in-school pregnancy works against individual and social progress and is
synonymous with backwardness and tradition within a modernising and globalised

Exploring in-school pregnancy in this thesis becomes a means through which to revoke
the binary symbolised by tradition and modernity which produces a deficit view of the
pregnant schoolgirl. Within this context, the study has been driven by the following
research questions:
· How do education policy and practice frame in-school pregnancy in
· How do families interpret and regulate in-school pregnancy?
· How do young people – young women – navigate the available discourses in the
performance of their identities?

Stimulated by a desire to explore the national policy tackling in-school pregnancy
indicating that pregnant schoolgirls should be transferred to night courses, the empirical
data collection took place within 10 months in and around the capital Maputo. It
entailed documentary analysis, interviews with 10 Ministry of Education officials, 20
school teachers and 33 young people (25 girls and 8 men/boys) in and out of education.
Through the generation and analysis of data, I develop a nuanced interpretation of the
discourses that construct and regulate in-school pregnancy within schools and families.

Within the institutional space of schools, a textual analysis of the policy shows how
language borrowed from the biomedical and legal fields is directed towards the
production of in-school pregnancy as unwanted, unplanned and ultimately ‘wrong’.
This normalises the difference between pregnant and non-pregnant schoolgirls,
producing transfer to night courses as a rational strategy to tackle in-school pregnancy.
Although understood as a means to bridge the gender gap in education by tackling one
of the main causes of female dropout, the current policy acts de facto as a highway to
dropout, thereby reproducing gender exclusion.

Within families, pregnancy initiates the complex procedure of family formation by
drawing on the mutually exclusive categories of childhood and adulthood and
symbolising the transition between the two. I contend that these two spaces, schools and
families, often associated by research participants with modernity and tradition
respectively, are not stable and homogenous constructs, but offer shifting and
contingent sets of norms which are both conflicting and intersecting.

By engaging with young people's narratives, I argue that pregnant schoolgirls, while
being constructed by discursive norms, also resist and react to them. At school, young
pregnant females enact a number of strategies to resist transfer to night courses. At
home, they resist family formation and find ways to combine their multiple identities.
By drawing on this, I ultimately contend that young pregnant schoolgirls navigate
different regulatory frameworks in the production of their identities. This means that the
itineraries they construct in crossing boundaries within normative frameworks constitute
their identities and reposition them as travellers.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: L Education > LG Individual institutions (Asia. Africa. Oceania) > LG401 Africa > LG641 Portuguese Africa (Former)
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics > RG0500 Obstetrics > RG0551 Pregnancy
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2015 12:58
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2015 13:34
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/53437

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