Partnership for education in Malawi: power and dynamics within the education sector wide approach

Chirwa, Catherine Sekanayo (2012) Partnership for education in Malawi: power and dynamics within the education sector wide approach. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis investigates the sector wide approach (SWAp) partnership in the education sector in Malawi. In my study, I utilized interviews with key actors and a questionnaire for selected development partners (DPs), government officials and members of civil society. In so doing, my aim was to gain an insight into the origins of the SWAp as a critical partnership strategy for funding sectors in developing countries based on the conceptual understanding that it would prove to be a more effective aid modality than the project approach. Being a typical basis for partnership collaboration in the wake of the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, the Malawian education SWAp, which was initiated as a response to the demands of changes in international aid during the 1990s, provided the focus of the study.

The findings of the study show evidence of how partnership interactions affected the SWAp process. This thesis demonstrates that the SWAp process has experienced challenges around power relations, as DPs seem to be either unwilling or unable to comply with the principles and partnership model prescribed in the Paris Declaration.

Funding constituted the main source of power relations in this SWAp process. DPs that donated more money to the government created an imbalance of power and influenced the interactions of other actors, which adversely influenced the decision-making process, including policy design and implementation. This in turn affected the participation of government officials, civil society and those DPs that donated less money. The thesis argues that as long as those who loan or donate the most fail to use their influence positively and facilitate adherence to the principles of the Paris Declaration, the SWAp process is bound to continue to be adversely affected. It also shows that although the SWAp differs fundamentally and conceptually from the project approach, in reality, nothing much has changed. The thesis further argues that the initial assertion that a SWAp is a more effective aid modality than the project approach is optimistic, and is made without due consideration for the practice on the ground.

In addition, the thesis demonstrates that the role of civil society as a watchdog in this SWAp was constrained and, although expected to constitute one of the main actors in the process, it was rarely viewed as part of the main partnership. It also found that even though DPs seemed to embrace the innovations that a SWAp necessitated, their internal systems were too slow to change and adapt to the requirements of the modality. It argues that, moreover, DPs‟ own government mandates and internal systems restricted their operations in the SWAp process; which, in a sense, created conflict not only with their role as DPs, but also around the setting of national priorities.

Finally, a key finding of the study is that minimum capacity – a “capacity base” – is required if the government is to engage meaningfully in a SWAp, even though such a modality intrinsically includes state capacity building. Indeed, capacity was an area of great concern, particularly in terms of the ability of government officials to engage in the SWAp process according to the principles of ownership and leadership – as a certain amount of capacity is required to lead the SWAp process by bringing together DPs and civil society, and clearly advancing government priorities.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: L Education > LG Individual institutions (Asia. Africa. Oceania) > LG401 Africa > LG441 Malawi
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2012 09:46
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2015 14:48

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