Dropping out of school: exploring the narratives of Aboriginal people in one Manitoba community through Lederach’s conflict transformation framework
Reimer, Laura Elizabeth
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Why do seventy percent of Canadian Aboriginal students drop out of school? Although the literature focuses on reform to schools, school systems, and to the formal relationships that govern Aboriginal education, there is, as yet, a lack of empirically-based evidence from the perspectives of the people who have dropped out. The research was conducted in an adult education centre located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and combines semi-structured interviews with an innovative Bead Workshop field-tested in other areas of identity conflict. The study asked 22 Aboriginal people how they make sense of their education experiences, inquired about why they dropped out of school, and invited them to share their hopes for the future. The trans-disciplinary nature of peace and conflict studies offers a new analysis when data were applied to Lederach’s (2003) conflict transformation framework. The findings showed that the participants quit school in the midst of very difficult and strikingly similar life circumstances, and they did not attribute dropping out to inadequacies in education or schooling, or to the effects of colonialism. The study expands the peace and conflict literature into the Canadian Aboriginal context while establishing a new research design and methodology. The study respects Indigenous research principles and combines them with conflict transformation principles to provide empirical evidence about why Aboriginal students drop out of school, and then extends the theoretical literature with a framework for exploring the role of deeper beliefs like love, courage, and hope in personal conflict transformation. Future research can be undertaken with larger groups of Aboriginal people to better understand their experiences in education and in other important areas of life, and to inform and advise Aboriginal policy and practice.