“They have got so much love, they are in love with the children”: An exploration of the educational impact of school tours as part of a safari itinerary in Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Economic and political turbulence in Zimbabwe has led to a broken education system that relies on donor and non-government organisation funding to provide fundamental resources such as desks, textbooks and classrooms. In schools in Matabeleland North, this donor support can be sought through school tours that are included in tour packages of southern Africa. Few studies have examined the implications of including a school tour in a mass tourism itinerary. Studies that explore the role of Corporate Social Responsibility or ‘giveback’ by tourism operators usually take a commercial lens when examining monetary donations. Further, studies have not explored the implementation of school tours using an educational lens. This thesis reports on an ethnographic study that explores the effect of school tours on education at one school. By taking an educational lens, this thesis considers the pedagogical impacts of school tours. This qualitative research project was conducted over a four-month fieldwork period which included ethnographic observations and interviews with teachers, school founders and tourism personnel. Postcolonial Indigenous methodology and a Foucauldian understanding of relationships of power, discourse, tourist gaze and heterotopia, were used to guide the design and implementation of the study. The implementation of school tours is incredibly complex. Using a metaphor of a movie script that draws on well-established tropes, this thesis explores relationships of power and how dominant images of children and humanitarian aid structure the conditions of possibility for how a school tour might look. This thesis argues teachers in the school must negotiate conflicting roles as they navigate between being both a teacher and a tour guide. Further, this thesis argues the implementation of funding creates unequal power relations between tourists, teachers, students and tour guides; these relationships of power, alongside dominant discourses of Development and care, enable and constrain possible action. The interviews with teachers and tourism personnel demonstrate that tourism is in some way beneficial as it provides resources and funding, allowing teachers to make use of pedagogical tools previously unavailable to them. However, school tours also deeply affect the ability of teachers to perform their role as a classroom teacher. When teachers are required to play the role of tour guide and they are absent from the classroom, the quality of learning for students is compromised. The teachers in this study felt constrained by the dominant image of how a tour should look and thus felt unable to voice their discomfort of having to leave their classrooms to conduct a tour. In the implementation of school tours, there should be more consideration of how interruptions can be managed so that they are beneficial for the learning outcomes of students. This study concludes that further research into school tours is necessary and valuable, particularly with an educational lens. Regardless of school resources, students require a teacher present to facilitate their learning.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Newcastle
Award date18 Aug 2021
Place of PublicationNewcastle, NSW
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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