Original Research - Topical Collection: Looking through a 'hope- and purpose-enhancing career development' lens

‘Indlela ibuzwa kwabaphambili’: Using indigenous knowledge practices to support first-year first-generation African students in their career transition to higher education

Boitumelo M. Diale
African Journal of Career Development | Vol 4, No 1 | a62 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajcd.v4i1.62 | © 2022 Boitumelo M. Diale | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 July 2022 | Published: 30 September 2022

About the author(s)

Boitumelo M. Diale, Department of Educational Psychology, Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: The study explored indigenous knowledge systems’ role in tutoring first-year first-generation African students (FYFGAS) transitioning from high school to higher education. During this process, tutors and students implicitly engage in indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) that allow for enculturation and holistic support for FYFGAS.

Objectives: Drawing on Schlossberg’s Career Transitioning Theory as an underpinning framework, the researcher explored how FYFGAS experienced tutoring sessions as a positive conduit towards their successful transition into their first year at university, embedded in the tutor’s use of IKS processes.

Method: This article adopted a phenomenological qualitative design within an interpretive paradigm. Data were collected using a semi-structured individual interview schedule with six participants who were first years and the first generation to attend universities in their families. These included four females and two males between the ages of 19 and 21 years. Five of the participants were black South Africans, and one was originally from Zimbabwe but a naturalised resident of South Africa. Data were analysed through inductive thematic analysis.

Results: The findings revealed that tutors were role models to FYFGAS as they transitioned. Tutors further acted as agents of empowerment, thus fulfilling the role of change agents. Students believed that tutoring sessions promoted active learning. Through their active engagement, students developed problem-solving and knowledge-acquisition skills.

Conclusion: There is a need for higher education institutions (HEIs) to build systems that embrace the diverse IKS in supporting the FYFGAS. Developing a holistic understanding of IKS and using these practices during the tutor sessions of FYFGAS will help transform HEI spaces and fully embrace diversity. This will allow these students’ career transitioning to be inclusive.

Contribution: The study contributes towards guiding higher education institutions on how to embrace and support students who are the first generation in their families to attend university. It brings further insight to the university leadership on the lived experiences of these students and h ow universities can adapt their first year experience programs to be more inclusive of these students


Indigenous knowledge systems; tutoring; higher education; first year; first-generation students; career transition.


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