Through international agencies and non-governmental organisations building their work on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, childhood has become increasingly homogenised as an idea. A ‘global model’ of childhood is promoted all over the world, but this is a model who fails in recognising the diverse realities of children’s lives. The diversity of childhood is on the other hand demonstrated through a growing body of literature on local childhood experiences, also in the majority world. Children living in opposition to the global model of childhood are here given predominantly attention, presenting children in especially difficult circumstances, in correspondence with most of media and NGO’s representations of children’s lives in the majority world. The experiences of the ‘ordinary’ lives of children in this part of the world are however underrepresented in literature, as well as in media.
Drawing on empirical research with 21 children in the age from eight to thirteen, representing diverse socio-economical backgrounds, this thesis provides a qualitative analysis of the experiences and perceptions of childhood in Bagamoyo, a coastal area of Tanzania. Along with the search for local experiences and perceptions, this study aims at providing a contribution to the knowledge about children’s lives located in the interstice between global ideas of childhood and lived realities of childhood in the majority world. I intend to give a broader picture of African childhood, reducing the gap between the two contrasts referred to above.
My theoretical perspective derives from the social studies of children and childhood. Data is gathered through a variety of participatory research tools, inspired by the Mosaic approach. The thesis adapts a perception of childhood combining the social constructed child approach and the socio-structural child approach. I essentially engage in the dichotomy found between the particularity and universality of childhood; the local and global aspect of childhood. Findings revealed in this study will also be discussed in regard to the debate on children’s status as human beings or ‘becomings’.
It will be demonstrated that childhood incorporates aspects of both commonalities and differences. And I will argue that global and local aspects of childhood should be understood as intertwined. Transitions from childhood to adulthood will be proven blurry and moreover dynamic and fluent, suggesting that the state of ‘becoming’ should not be considered in contrast to the state of being. Rather they should be seen in combination.