Silence and silencing in the classroom: Rwandan girls' epistemic exclusion in English medium basic education

Kuchah Kuchah, Laela Adamson, Aline Dorimana, Aloysie Uwizeyemariya, Alphonse Uworwabayeho, Lizzi O. Milligan

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This paper develops the notion of epistemic exclusion as a way of exploring the different types of silence and silencing that happen in English medium Rwandan classrooms. By focusing on classroom observations of teachers' pedagogic practices and the ways in which girls interact in the classrooms, we demonstrate how experiences of epistemic exclusion intersect with other mechanisms of marginalisation, in this case related to gendered norms and expected behaviours. Through thematic analysis of dual classroom observation schedules and video transcriptions from 32 Primary Six and Secondary Three lessons in four government schools, we have identified examples where learners' engagement in the co-construction of language and subject knowledge was limited by classroom practices. Silence, and silencing, of girls was particularly observed in Secondary Three where reluctance to speak in class and respond to teachers' questions, combined with lack of confidence as evidenced through body language, deprived girls from participating in spontaneous classroom talk. Conclusions discuss how silencing limits girls' epistemic inclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Early online date31 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Dec 2022


  • epistemic exclusion
  • girls' experiences
  • silence and silencing
  • basic education
  • meaning making
  • pedagogic practice


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