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 – June 2018, Budget: EUR 165.000, PI: 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

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

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

3) identifies 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. Drawing on the case study of Uganda, the project generates new insights that inform transformative and self-emancipatory developmental models in the field of education and international development. In this process, current and future publications are informed by local perspectives, narratives, and accounts of everyday realities from a wide range of Ugandan actors. Ultimately, the main objective is to offer alternative routes towards democratization through education in and not for sub-Saharan African states. To ensure a more nuanced approach, quantitative findings are complemented with qualitative data on how educational structures and its empowering elements are perceived by Ugandans themselves. Besides, the project expands existing and ongoing research on development and democratization in sub-Saharan African states in highlighting the importance but also limitations of education therein. In a wider sense, it is of great relevance to debates on the effectiveness of aid, aid dependency but also democratization.

Publications from this project:

  • Datzberger, Simone (2022). Lost in Transition? Modernization, formal education and violence in Karamoja. World Development, Vol. 158 access here
  • Datzberger, Simone (2022): “Education and Empowerment. Voices from Ugandan Youth. Working Paper 66. Austrian Foundation for Development Research, Vienna. access here
  • Datzberger, Simone and Le Mat, Marielle (2019): “Schools as change agents? Education and individual political agency in Uganda.” International Journal of Educational Development, Vol 67 (C), pp 18-28 access here
  • Tromp, Rosanne E. and Datzberger, Simone (2019): Global Education Policies versus local realities. Insights from Uganda and Mexico, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, online first, access here
  • Datzberger, Simone (2018): “Why education is not helping the poor. Findings from Uganda”, World Development, Volume 110, pp. 124-139 access here
  • Datzberger, Simone and Le Mat, Marielle (2018): “Just add women and stir? Education, gender and peacebuilding in Uganda”, International Journal of Educational Development, Vol 59, pp. 61-69 – access here
  • Datzberger, Simone and Donovan, Outi (2018): “Silencing the past in Ugandan schools. The role of education in reconciliation processes.”, Peacebuilding, pp. 1-17, online first, access here