Democratization through Education?

The role of education in strengthening civil agency and voice in sub-Saharan Africa (Case Study: Uganda)

Research Project financed through Horizon 2020, European Commission. Duration: September 2016 – April 2019, Budget: EUR 165.000, Project Leader: Simone Datzberger, Mentor: Mieke Lopes Cardozo. University of Amsterdam.

Photo: Simone Datzberger
Photo: Simone Datzberger

This Marie-Curie research project advances our understanding of the role of education in fostering democratization processes in sub-Saharan Africa from the bottom up. Education has been long treated as an area of development programming that is separate from strengthening civil society formation and democratization processes. We still face several knowledge gaps in existing research on how education increases the agency of the wider civil sphere. This void is striking and it is here where the research makes an innovative contribution to existing debates. In doing so, the project will

1) explore the correlations between educational attainment and civil society characteristics and agency;

2) assess how formal and non-formal education systems and programmes increase the attention to and comprehension of local politics;

3) identify innovative, multi-scalar and context-specific approaches to nurture democratization processes through education.

The aim is to bring together the disciplines of education and international development while drawing from and contributing to research on democratization, civil society and agency. Uganda serves as a case study as it exemplifies a striking paradox occurring in the majority of sub-Saharan African states. Despite a steady increase of funds and the commitment to support development through the grassroots level, experts witness weak democratization processes on the ground. Leading local CSOs consist of a small group of well-funded, urban-based organizations, led by a highly educated elite, with only a token presence in rural areas. On the other hand, the majority of grassroots and less-visible civil society actors are frequently characterized by political illiteracy – not to mention the country’s poorly educated wider civil sphere.

The findings of this project will be published in a monograph, two journal articles, policy briefs and publicized to a non-specialized audience via outreach activities (e.g.: media and blog articles, round-table discussions). In the coming months, Politics & Voice will provide updates on project progress, interim findings and fieldwork on this page.