A cultural perspective on adult learning: Personhood and community among rural Nigerian women

Date of Completion

January 2000


Anthropology, Cultural|Education, Adult and Continuing|Sociology, General




In Nigeria, as in many other developing countries, few studies have been conducted to explore how rural Nigerian women learn. Educators typically employ learning models that have been developed from research with a Western population living in a non-African cultural milieu. Often, the adult education programs based on these Western learning models are less than successful. There is, therefore, a need to understand rural adults' ways of learning in other contexts, in particular, in African contexts. ^ Western philosophy and major Western studies on adult learning have been principally based on the assumption that learning should focus primarily on the individual or on oneself. From this perspective, theories have been developed which highlight the individual learner. Notwithstanding the significance of these theories to adult learning, particularly in a Western context, there is little evidence that the theories can be generalized to different cultural contexts, such as Nigeria, among rural Tiv women. ^ The study was conducted in a rural Nigerian village in order to understand how rural Tiv women learned, and to investigate how concepts of personhood and community influenced their learning process, particularly with respect to childcare. An ethnographic study was employed utilizing qualitative methodology. Data analysis was performed by using open and axial coding, clustering, and data summaries. ^ The study showed that the socio-cultural environment, more specifically concepts of personhood and community, strongly influence the process by which Tiv women learn to care for their children. Concepts of personhood and community are firmly grounded in community-based activities and in the day-to-day relationships of the cultural milieu, and serve as guides to rural women in learning to care for their children. ^