Breaking Through the Intergenerational Cycle of Educational Inequalities: First Generation Learners, Stigmatized Occupational Groups and Sustainable Futures

Anagha Tambe, Swati Dyahadroy | 2023


This study aims to investigate educational inequalities amongst precarious and stigmatized workers and unravel how the deeply intertwined inequalities of caste, class and gender shape micro practices in this group that work towards their children’s educational exclusion as well as mobility. It explores how parental occupation, stigma, subsequent living conditions, neighbourhood, and mobilizations of and interventions for workers, impact the educational journeys of first-generation students. This study therefore thinks together first- generation students, stigmatized occupations, and cultural and social capital (or its lack). This study focused on unravelling the educational trajectories of first-generation college students, especially young women from the families engaged in stigmatized work in the Pune city as Pune has witnessed a long history of struggles and mobilizations of informal workers. We selected six such occupational groups: waste- pickers, sanitation workers, domestic workers, sex workers, head loaders and brick kiln workers. These different work sectors vary in terms of precarity of work, social stigma attached to it, legal protection, civil society support and political mobilization. These occupations are gendered and are constituted by caste in varied ways. We approached the workers through their organizations and unions to examined their role in the educational attainment of the children of these workers, shaping of the aspiration of parents and children regarding the inter-generational mobility through higher education.

Along with mapping the struggle of first-generation learner, the project was also imagined as a pedagogic space, a collective transformative, reflexive, and democratising space for radical imagination within and beyond the university. The questions such as how do students learn about critical methodological and ethical issues of research? and how do they learn about the working of social power and the transformative politics? Were addressed during this process. We thus explored the political, affective, and visceral dimensions of this learning processes through our research study.