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  • Cited by 9
  • Print publication year: 2002
  • Online publication date: September 2009

5 - Indigenous conceptions of childhood development and social realities in southern Africa


This chapter is about conceptions of childhood and development from the southern African perspective. Nations of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe are considered here to constitute the southern African region.

The first section deals with clarifications of key concepts used in the presentation. These are embodied in the phrase indigenous conceptions of childhood development. In the second section, links are made between conceptions of childhood and manifestations of the development of children from southern Africa. Based on southern African world views, illustrations of indigenous conceptions of childhood and development are provided in the contexts of childcare and development, children's rights and child and youth development in difficult circumstances. In the third section of the chapter, reflections on the possible contribution of the southern African indigenous and cultural conceptions of childhood to the pan-human arena of developmental science are offered.

Key concepts

According to Archard (1993), the conception of childhood is better understood when it is differentiated from the concept of childhood. To him, the

…concept of childhood requires that children be distinguished from adults in respect of some unspecified set of attributes. A conception of childhood is a specification of those attributes. … I have the concept of childhood if, in my behaviour towards children and the way I talk about them, I display a clear recognition that they are at a distinct and … different stage from adults.

(Archard, 1993, p. 22)