The stuff that dreams are made of...Narratives on educational decision-making among young adults in Cape Town

Working Paper


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title

Centre for Social Science Research

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

This paper examines the narratives of eight young, Black South Africans on their decisions around education. Analysis focuses on these young adults' value of education on the one hand, and the parallels or breaches between that value and education-related choices or actions on the other. It shows that educational decision-making should be regarded as part of a larger process of identity-formation. I argue that the young people in my sample choose different strategies in attempts to create their identity. One such strategy implies a long-term oriented focus on success; choosing in favour of education is an intrinsic part thereof. Another one rests on a more short-term oriented wish for the same type of success, however with little or no concrete plans on how to reach that. The importance of education is not openly rejected by young adults adapting this second strategy, yet it is not a central factor in it either. Strategies such as these are, however, not static, and the distinction between them not as unambiguous as may seem. Shifting factors in a context of 'fragility' may lead young adults to rethink their choices and plans; many move between different strategies, or create 'in-between' versions that leave room for adaptation when necessary.