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The Somali education sector had almost collapsed by the time Somalia’s government collapsed in 1991. However, an education sector re-emerged in the self-declared independent Republic of Somaliland. Despite limited resources and lacking international recognition as a state, education continues to be provided. This paper sets out to analyze the role played by the state in this process. Although practices of organizing primary education provision are largely located outside the state framework, the state continues to be productive for non-state actors in their continuous attempts to deliver education.


Reproducing The State? Organizing Primary Education Between State And Non-State Actors In Somaliland

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Tobias Gandrup and Kristof Titeca

Published online: 24 Jul 2019.

Institute of Development Policy (IOB), University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

ABSTRACT

The Somali education sector had almost collapsed by the time Somalia’s government collapsed in 1991. However, an education sector re-emerged in the self-declared independent Republic of Somaliland. Despite limited resources and lacking international recognition as a state, education continues to be provided. This paper sets out to analyze the role played by the state in this process. Although practices of organizing primary education provision are largely located outside the state framework, the state continues to be productive for non-state actors in their continuous attempts to deliver education. Despite its distant role, the state is not completely powerless within the organization of the sector. The paper describes first how the state accumulated sufficient power to be in charge of the education sector. This is followed by three cases unpacking how the state and its power is re-produced between state and non-state actors.

Why does the state stay when it keeps failing?1

When the central government in Mogadishu collapsed in 1991, the provision of education had in practice already disappeared in most of Somalia. More than 90% of schools were completely destroyed by war in the late 1980s,2 and the wider education sector had virtually collapsed.3 This did not mean that public services were no longer provided nor that governance processes were absent. The literature on Somalia has widely shown how governance continues to be delivered from actors other than the government,4 and that different types of political orders have been established across the Somali territories.5 Importantly, ongoing negotiations between ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ forms of authority in the Northern region of the collapsed Somali Republic shaped the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, which remains unrecognized by the international community.6 While the creation of a political order and institutionalization of (hard) power in Somaliland have been documented in detail, less is known about how public services are organized, particularly in the education sector.

What does the unrecognized status of Somaliland and the almost complete destruction of an education sector mean for the provision of education services in contemporary Somaliland? On one hand, the unrecognized status of Somaliland’s sovereignty means that the state administration cannot receive bilateral aid, affecting the national budget, and constraining governmental attempts at state-building and public service delivery.7 Moreover, most of the de facto state’s limited national budget is spent on security,8 and little is left for delivery of other public services including education. In 2017 the government budget was US$259 million of which approximately 7% was allocated to education.9 On the other hand, indicators illustrate that education continues to be delivered. For example, the number of primary schools has grown steadily, from virtually zero in 1990 to 294 in 2001, to 1,083 in 2015.10 In other words, notwithstanding a small budget and a contested status, education services continue to be provided in Somaliland.

This paper sets out to explore how education services continue to be organized, and more importantly, it aims to analyze the role of the state in doing so: how is the state reproduced (or not) between state and non-state actors in Somaliland’s education sector? Concretely, we show how the state framework and policies are productive for non-state actors in their continuous attempt of organizing primary education delivery.

The article draws on eight months of qualitative field research carried out mainly in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, between late 2016 and early 2017, and late 2017, as well as three weeks of preliminary fieldwork in Hargeisa in mid-2016. During the eight months of fieldwork, two short trips to a village approximately 70 kilometers south of Hargeisa were also conducted for this research.11 Field research included 150 qualitative semistructured interviews with donor representatives, teachers, government officials, school inspectors, headteachers, members of community education committee, and businessmen. Moreover, participant observation and informal discussions with teachers, parents, and state officials inside and outside schools were recorded in field notes. Lastly, government staff and donor representatives kindly provided documents supplementing the first-hand data.

The article is divided into four main parts. The first part, following this introduction, sketches out the view of non-state production of ‘the state’ and the struggle for symbolic power as a prerequisite in trajectories of state formation. The second part provides a short historical overview that describes how the state administration came to be understood as the main authority in charge of the education sector. The historical section is followed by three examples that show how ‘the state’ is productive in the organization of education delivery between state and non-state actors. Finally, a few concluding remarks will be made.

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