Barriers and Enablers to Participation in Higher Education: An Exploratory Study

Muhammad Awab-us-Sibtain, Ahmed Usman & Baqir Husnain


This article draws from narratives of 14 slum dwellers of Christian Colony, Islamabad, Pakistan, to explore their struggle through a web of barriers and enablers to participate in higher education. Using the qualitative approach, primary data was collected through in-depth interviews. The respondents were mostly from the families where males worked as sanitary workers or unskilled laborers while the females worked as sanitary workers or housemaids. The interview data was transcribed, labelled and thematically analyzed. As a result, various themes around the barriers and enablers to participation in higher education emerged. For the most recurrent themes that emerged from the data, a second round of interviews was conducted and four illustrative examples were chosen that richly provide contextual information about their respective themes. Thus, the study used narrative storytelling technique under Systems Theory Framework to depict the struggle of individual slum dwellers within multiple intrapersonal and social systems. The study concluded that lack of guidance and dearth of financial resources were the key barriers that the slum dwellers faced to participate in higher education. Also, the study concluded that the coping strategy for the key barriers could be affirmative interventions of careercounselling and financial assistance to support egalitarian participation of the slum dwellers in higher education.

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