‘We teach them to be university students'. The role of peer educators in the provision of ontological access to higher education


In South Africa, we have been concerned with students’ epistemological access to disciplinary knowledge, but perhaps not sufficiently concerned with their ontological access into disciplinary identities. This paper argues that undertaking university studies requires the integration of epistemological access with ontological formation within disciplinary communities, and, thus, personal transformation, as well as knowledge acquisition. The focus of this study is the role of peer educators in the provision of ontological access to disciplinary identities at a South African university. The study found that student assistants who ‘are from the same backgrounds as the students’ and ‘understand where they are coming from’ were well positioned to provide ontological access to disciplines and fields. The University has developed a strong culture of students supporting students, and the paper draws on concepts of social and epistemic justice to theorise how this was achieved for the purpose of generalising these insights more widely.

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