Funded collaborative PhD studentship available at School of the Environment, University of Dundee

image Published: Jul 30, 2014

Applications are invited for a full-time, three-year PhD studentship to undertake a research project entitled: The place of 'spirituality' in street children's lived experiences: understanding the implications of religious and other spiritual beliefs and practices for growing up on the streets in Africa.

The studentship is supervised by Lorraine van Blerk (Reader, Human Geography) and the collaborating partner StreetInvest, who are based in London (through the longitudinal Growing Up On the Streets research project). The studentship provides home/EU tuition fees, a research training allowance and overseas fieldwork costs for the duration of the studentship. The maintenance grant (paid at standard Research Council rates) is secured for the first year. Maintenance for years 2 and 3 will be reapplied for in advance as per funding body requirements. Unfortunately, the award is not open to applicants who are liable to pay tuition fees at the international fee rate. The starting date for the PhD is autumn 2014 and the deadline for receipt of applications is Friday 15th August.

The project:
Recent attention around street children’s rights has resulted in renewed policy interest for meeting their needs. However, policy is often concerned with physical and social needs (shelter, food, play, family), and neglecting spiritual needs. Spirituality is also largely absent in research, yet it is central to many African cultures and impacts on street children’s lives in multiple and conflicting ways. The importance of belief in G/god(s) can provide a sense of worth on the streets yet belief in child witchcraft and associated practices of abuse, abandonment and trafficking, can be harmful for many African street children. This project responds to a post secular call for greater conceptualisation of the intersectionality of geographies of religiosity through exploring the impacts of spiritual beliefs and practices on the lived realities of street children in 3 African cities: Accra, Ghana; Harare, Zimbabwe and Bukavu, DRC.

This project aims to investigate how street children’s socio-spatial lives are shaped by various spiritualties as well as the impact of religious institutions in supporting/excluding them. The project takes a participatory approach and is embedded within the existing framework of the collaborative research project Growing Up On The Streets to explore the associated yet independent theme of spirituality. The fieldwork comprises secondary data analysis of the theme ‘spirituality’ complemented by participatory activities facilitated through StreetInvest’s local partners in each city. Knowledge exchange with policy makers and stakeholders in Africa and the UK will formulate policy and practice recommendations for understanding the impact of different spiritualties on street children lives.

Candidates must have a first class or upper second class Honours degree (or equivalent qualification) in Human Geography or related social science discipline. It is expected that applicants will also hold (or will be completing) a relevant Masters degree. Applicants should have experience of undertaking qualitative research while the following skills/abilities are also strongly desirable:

Experience of working with children/youth
Practical experience of working overseas, preferably in Africa.
An interest in, and open-minded approach to, understanding the role of (diverse forms of) spirituality in street children’s lives.
Additional language skills are not necessary, although an ability to communicate at any level in French and an interest in learning basic greetings in Shona, Twi or Swahili would be an advantage.

How to apply:
Please send a full cv; covering letter outlining your qualifications, skills and motivations for undertaking this project. Two academic references are also required. The deadline for applications is Friday 15th August 2014, with interviews expected to be held in late August for a September/October start.

Contact: Lorraine Van Blerk <> (Human Geography, Dundee)

Collaborating Partner: StreetInvest
For more information on the Growing Up On the Streets research project visit:

Informal enquires can also be made to Dr. Lorraine van Blerk:

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