Overcoming Odds: Success Stories of Immigrant [Sub-Saharan African] University Students: A Well-being Perspective
The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the experiences of sixteen Sub-Saharan African post-secondary students, and how they were able to succeed in spite of tremendous odds. The study was also designed to investigate ways to enhance educational attainment among recent immigrant students in Canadian schools and universities. The study was dedicated to advancing the understanding of recent immigrant students, from Sub-Saharan Africa, who had faced life challenges and multiple traumas. With a focus on their well-being, the development of this new knowledge will help policymakers and educators to develop strategies to enable culturally, linguistically, and socio-economically diverse students to reach their potential in their new country. The students selected for the study were resilient individuals who were seen as successful. Success stories of immigrant students from Sub-Saharan Africa who had overcome turmoil in their lives were investigated. These were newcomers to Canada who had succeeded against all odds both in Africa and Canada. This study was based on the premise that in a community all individuals may have access to the same resources, but unlike others, some individuals manage to overcome the problems that confront others (Pascale et al., 2010). These individuals are unique in their communities and their outcomes have deviated in a positive way from the norm (Pascale et al., 2010). The practices and insights of sixteen Sub-Saharan African students that had proven to be the key to their resilience and success were described from in-depth interviews. Further understandings were derived from structured narrative analysis. Using a qualitative research approach, this study developed insights into: the factors that hinder or enhance educational attainment and well-being among students; the perceptions of those students and the practices used by those who influence, support and educate them; and understanding of the practices that stimulate interests and contribute positively toward enhancing the education attainment and well-being of Sub-Saharan African students. The factors that enhance educational attainment and well-being among students were investigated through the use of support structures. These identified support structures were parental support, the social support they received from friends and social networks, religious/spiritual support, the support they received from their communities, physical support, financial support, the motivations or inspirations they received from teachers, school/university support, and career support. The findings of this study expand and enrich both local and international literature on issues relating to youth or students who have experienced turmoil in their lives, and some of the factors that contribute to their resilience and well-being. These findings further shed light on the topic of enhancing education attainment and the subject of well-being of ethnic minorities and, in particular, Sub-Saharan African immigrant students who have experienced turmoil in their lives. While this topic has been gaining interest in recent years, the formulation and implementation of strategic educational practices to promote educational attainment and well-being for African or Sub-Saharan African students is in its infancy in Canadian. Hence, the new knowledge and insights presented within this study will help policymakers, support persons, and educators to develop strategies that will enable and encourage such students to thrive and flourish.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeClaypool, Tim; Renihan, Pat; Noonan, Warrren
Copyright DateJanuary 2016
Sub-Saharan African, post-secondary education, resilience, well-being