Making schools: Primary education, governance and the state in Somaliland

Date: 21 September 2020

Venue: Online - - -

Time: 5:00 PM

Organization / co-organization: Institute of Development Policy

PhD candidate: Tobias Gandrup

Principal investigator: Kristof Titeca and Tom De Herdt

Short description: PhD defence Tobias Gandrup - Institute of Development Policy

Online defence
Because of corona restrictions, the entire event will be held online

This PhD thesis is the first of its kind to produce rich, ethnographic material on primary education from the Somali territories. In doing so, it contributes to and challenges existing research on public service provision in context of state fragility and weakness with a socio-political analysis of local governance and the state.

Based on extensive anthropological fieldwork carried out in Hargeisa, the capital of the self-declared Republic of Somaliland in what is officially the Northern part of Somalia, the study focusses on the political dimensions of primary education. Through four papers, the study deals with the re-emergence and development of an education sector in Somaliland after the collapse of the Somali government in 1991, and analyses contemporary practices of organising, regulating and providing primary education.

Concretely, the thesis shows how primary education is dependent on ongoing negotiations between the state and a number of non-state actors, in the shape of NGOs, philanthropists, concerned parents, diaspora organisations, sheikhs and many others. Importantly, it is shown how local actors’ international connections are crucial in shaping primary education. The negotiated nature of primary education results in an increasingly fragmented and heterogeneous education sector in which parallel education systems exist and in which actual practices are often far removed from official policy and protocol.

The thesis argues that though actual practices on school level deviate from state ideals and practices, these gaps are not to be seen as signs of state decay, as conventional theories of public service provision in context of state fragility and weakness prescribe. Instead, the research documents that the space between ideals and practice provides flexibility, and at times even necessary room for manoeuvre for the different sets of actors in their continuous attempts at delivering, organising and regulating primary education. Moreover, the thesis shows that these gaps are not left ungoverned. Indeed, the thesis analyses the multiplicity of norms and practices emanating from different institutions and actors governing these gaps between policy, ideal and practice. Importantly, these everyday practices of organising, providing and regulating primary education in Somaliland are done with (some) reference to the state.

In sum, the main argument of the thesis is that the state is produced and reproduced by state representatives in conjunction with a range of non-state actors operating, negotiating and interacting in the gap between state ideal and actual practice.

Registration: Because of corona restrictions, the entire event will be held online, so registration is not required.