Resilience Among Children Living and Working on the Streets of Harare

FAR-LeaF research fellow Dr Samson Mhizha recently presented his work at the Emergent Researcher Resilience Lab at the Centre for Resilience Studies, Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria.

The Emergent Researcher Resilience Lab aims to bring together doctoral and Early Career Researchers in the Field of Resilience to share knowledge and expertise. The Centre, on 5 October, hosted a hybrid Emergent Resilience Researcher Lab session.

Dr Mhizha, chairperson of the Department of Applied Psychology at the University of Zimbabwe and a Post-Doctoral research fellow with Future Africa, Far-LeaF Programme at the University of Pretoria, visited the centre from Harare and presented on his current research: Climate Vulnerability and Resilience Processes among Children Living and Working on the Streets in Harare Zimbabwe.

According to Dr Mhizha, young people’s health and well-being are threatened by many challenges, including climate change and related phenomena. Vulnerability to climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa is on the increase. Little attention has been paid to the climate vulnerability and resilience processes among children living and working on the streets.

Globally, an alarming and escalating number of children live and work on the streets. These children present public health and human rights concerns as they are socially excluded from crucial support systems, especially education, parental guidance, and kinship support. The Sustainable Development Goals prioritise ending hunger and universal access to quality education as the panacea for poverty.

The questions his researcher seeks to answer speak to the nature of climate vulnerability for children living and working on the streets and the resilience processes they employ to deal with those vulnerabilities. The study is informed by the notion of flocking as a salient Afrocentric collective resilience response to adversity. Flocking denotes deliberate social support to mobilise available social resources in existing relationships to promote positive collective outcomes.

“Street children aged between 9 and 16 years will be sampled for this study. Data will be collected from social workers, teachers, and guardians using semi-structured interviews and mixed method data using participatory visual methods, interviews, and quantitative measures on resilience. The data will be analysed using thematic content analysis and descriptive statistics. Ethical approval will be sought from the Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe, said Mhizha.”

Dr Mhizha’s research mainly focuses on resilience pathways, mental health functioning, family reunification, indigenous psychologies, gifted and talented learning, and inclusive education among marginalised and disadvantaged children.

Critical aims in his research are resilience enablers, family reunification, mainstreaming of indigenous knowledge systems, and educational functioning and outcomes for children working and being homeless. His research achievements include publications in peer reviews journals, edited books, and workshop presentations.

“The chance to present my work here was a significant honour. It was amazing to get this opportunity to get exposure, comments on my work, constructive criticism, advice, and input. It was a chance to learn from scholars in the field and for networking. Getting to know and present my work with scholars who are experienced in my area was a great experience, and getting feedback from them,” he said.

His visit to South Africa and the UP also gave Dr Mhizha a chance to engage with his FAR-LeaF mentor, Prof Liesel Ebersöhn, the Centre for the Study of Resilience director and professor in the UP Department of Education Psychology.

“My experience of her as a mentor has been exceptional so far. She is the current secretary general and incoming president of the World Education Research Association – one of the best in the world in the field of resilience. She has helped me a lot with constructing constructinglogy and ethical approval applications and linkingnked me up, hotlinking early career scholars. The direction she gave to my studies was advantageous – interacting with someone of her stature and being exposed was out of this world."

“One of the key aims of the FAR-LeaF fellowship is to create collaboration amongst the fellows and beyond. " This was an opportunity to network with people in my field – this was very important to me,” said Dr Mhizha.

Heidi Sonnekus | FAR-LeaF Program


The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.