Academic Resilience In Mathematics Amongst At-Risk Grade 10 Learners In Namibia: A Phenomenology Study

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Demands for technical and scientific expertise in many countries including Namibia made the Namibian government emphasise the need for effective teaching of mathematics and science in schools to enable learners to excel in these subjects. Despite that, school failure at Grade 10 level remains a challenge in Namibia. Learners continue to perform poorly, especially in mathematics over the past years. One intriguing manifestation of this record of performance is that there are some learners who may be considered to be at risk of school failure yet they excel in mathematics. These are learners of a low social economic status, who come from poverty-stricken families and communities ravaged by crime, violence, parental unemployment and substance abuse, just to mention a few. The focal point of this study is to understand the conceptual, experiential and practical ramifications of resilience displayed by such learners. Thus, a study on protective factors which contribute to academic resilience in mathematics might provide a stepping stone to success in learning mathematics and to the development of a subject/section in the school curriculum to foster academic resilience amongst Namibian learners.

A phenomenological research methodology was chosen with the aim of describing the lived experiences of those Grade 10 learners who are at risk of school failure yet have resilient outcomes in mathematics. A sample of eight learners who obtained a B grade/symbol or better in mathematics in the national Grade 10 formal examinations in 2014; and were considered at-risk of school failure; were selected with the help of their mathematics and life skills teachers. The research participants were interviewed using a three-phase approach. The standardised open-ended interview in the first phase focused on the context of the participants’ experience with resilience. In the second phase the participants were asked to describe details of their lived experiences of resilience in the school context. Lastly in the third phase participants were encouraged to reflect on the meaning of their experiences of resilience. The interviews were

audio-recorded and transcribed. The transcripts were analysed thematically to identify core commonalities and meanings.

The results of this study have provided evidence that academic resilience in mathematics was displayed through the strong social bonds learners shared with both adults and peers/friends who promoted their desire to participate in the life of school and to achieve. Furthermore, findings showed that the context in which learners had/have to learn mathematics was best described as not being favourable for learning mathematics. Most of the participants were orphans born to un-educated/under-educated parents and lived in crowded homes in poverty-stricken neighbourhoods. These neighbourhoods were characterised by a high number of cuca shops/bars which emitted so much noise that it was challenging for the learners to study at home. Learners reported exposure to violence, alcohol and substance abuse in their streets. In addition, owing to low levels of parental education they receive/d little or no family support with their learning of mathematics; consequently, their home background failed to provide them with role models in mathematics. Instead, some of the participants live/lived with siblings who dropped out of school, parents who failed grade 10 and peers who disliked mathematics. These participants relied on their own self-determination, self-efficacy, self-help and optimism for learning mathematics. Because of these qualities learners were able to adapt to the challenges in their environment and achieve good results in mathematics. Bearing of these findings in mind the study developed a theoretical model for promoting academic resilience in mathematics herein referred to as the triple I (I-I-I) model for promoting academic resilience in mathematics through the perspective of the learner informed by the learners’ lived experiences of the phenomenon.

The study provided some suggestions which if implemented might enable learners from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed in mathematics. It is recommended that the Ministry of Education should revise the life skills syllabus to add a section aimed at promoting academic

resilience. Another suggestion is that parents should be encouraged by school principals and teachers to show interest in their children’s education. For example, schools should also inform parents about school activities through the local media such as local radio stations. Schools should strengthen the parents’ relationship with the school through the school board and encourage parents to attend school meetings by highlighting the importance of parental attendance to the learners.

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SSA, R (2021). Academic Resilience In Mathematics Amongst At-Risk Grade 10 Learners In Namibia: A Phenomenology Study. Retrieved May 13, 2021, from

MLA 8th

Research, SSA. "Academic Resilience In Mathematics Amongst At-Risk Grade 10 Learners In Namibia: A Phenomenology Study", 27 Apr. 2021, . Accessed 13 May. 2021.


Research, SSA. "Academic Resilience In Mathematics Amongst At-Risk Grade 10 Learners In Namibia: A Phenomenology Study".,, 27 Apr. 2021. Web. 13 May. 2021. < >.


Research, SSA. "Academic Resilience In Mathematics Amongst At-Risk Grade 10 Learners In Namibia: A Phenomenology Study" (2021). Accessed May 13, 2021.