Policy and practice of community participation in the governance of basic education in rural Zambia

Okitsu, Taeko (2012) Policy and practice of community participation in the governance of basic education in rural Zambia. Doctoral thesis , University of Sussex.

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Abstract

Since the 1990s, the Government of Zambia has pursued the decentralisation of basic
education with strong emphasis on active community participation in local education
governance, the aim being to increase the accountability of local education institutions to
the community. The accompanying liberalisation of the basic education sector is expected
to enhance the role of parents as customers with a freedom of choice in the education
market; thus, leading to the greater accountability of schools through the market
mechanism.

This thesis investigates the extent to which these commitments are being practically
realised in rural Zambia, which is a largely under-researched area. Specifically, it explores
parental and community participation both in government basic schools and community
schools, as well as at the district education authority level through the establishment of the
District Education Board (DEB).

The thesis undertakes a sociological investigation in order to understand the processes
involved in parental and community participation from the viewpoints and experiences of
the various local actors. Accordingly, it has employed an interpretive paradigm, utilising
interviews, observations and document analysis as sources for the study.

The findings of the thesis reveal a considerable gap between policy expectations and the
realities at school and district levels, demonstrating that some of the underlying policy
assumptions have not been met in practice.

The thesis found that parents and communities in the rural setting frequently lack ability,
agency and the spirit of voluntarism, factors that conspire to form a barrier to effective
participation in local education affairs. These obstacles resulted in part from low cultural
and economic capital, and the perception that local education matters constituted the
domain of trained professionals. Furthermore, the low quality of education on offer and
lack of transparency in the management of school resources also meant that parents
judged the cost of participation to exceed the benefits. Thus, the policy assumption of the
homogeneous, equal, willing and capable community playing a new participatory role
cannot necessarily be taken for granted.

Moreover, embedded micro-power relations between education professionals and
laypeople, as well as amongst the latter, often influence the way different actors deliberate
and negotiate in newly created participatory spaces. As a result, the voices and protests of
the socially and economically disadvantaged are often poorly articulated, go unheard and
lack influence.

Laypeople are expected to play a larger managerial role in community schools, which
should increase parental power to hold teachers accountable. In reality however, their
ability to realise this was seriously constrained. In a context of chronic poverty, the
community was unable to remunerate teachers sufficiently, and subsequently powerless to
discipline or dismiss those frequently absent from school, given that it was virtually
impossible to find other teachers willing to work for little or no remuneration.

In terms of choice, parents were also compromised as customer stakeholders in both
government and community schools. Many did not have the socio-economic or
geographical wherewithal to exercise freedom of choice, which in any case was not
adequately accompanied by either incentives or the threat of sanctions that might
encourage teachers to perform better.

The thesis further shows that teachers and district officials not only lack the willingness to
embrace laypeople in their new governance roles but also lack the capacity and autonomy
to respond to the demands of parents and communities even when they would like to; the
centre still holds controls over many areas while resources allocated to the local level are
grossly inadequate.

Therefore, the thesis shows that the extent to which the policy of community participation
in local education governance and school choice increases the accountability of local
education institutions is open to question. Rather, it suggests that both micro and macro
contexts play a vital role in shaping the way in which parents and communities participate
in local education governance, in what form, and the consequent influence this has on
accountability to the community. Thus, with the use of such a sociological framework, the
thesis demonstrates the significance of context, power relations, and the differing social,
cultural and economic capital that shape the way different actors participate or do not
participate; a consideration that tends to be overlooked in the dominant discourse of
decentralisation and community participation on the international education development
agenda.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC0065 Social aspects of education > LC0215 Community and the school
L Education > LG Individual institutions (Asia. Africa. Oceania) > LG401 Africa > LG469 Zambia
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2012 10:08
Last Modified: 24 Aug 2015 15:03
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/7657

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