Through the lens of the primary education sector, this paper has shown how the state continues to be organized in Somaliland between state and non-state actors. Relations between state and non-state actors in Somaliland are complex, hybridized and intertwined, blurring the distinctions between these two types of actors. Due to its lack of international recognition and its limited financial capacity, the state administration is not capable of fully regulating and financing education. This does not mean that the education sector has collapsed or that it depends entirely on the private sector. Instead, while the practices of nonstate actors are central in the continued provision of primary education services, the state administration continues to play an important role in structuring relations within the education sector: in a word, it ‘stays’.

The first example showed how both the state and non-state actors co-produce education services, an arrangement that benefits both actors. The state is able to extend its administrative reach and build symbolic power, while non-state actors gain some financial benefit. In doing so, we have shown the blurriness of state and non-state boundaries. The state’s boundary ‘never marks a real exterior’,84 but is actively produced and maintained, reflecting the power relations at stake. The second case illustrated that the state does wield some symbolic power as non-state actors were forced to negotiate with the state over a curriculum reform. The outcome was not only a negotiated implementation of the reform but also additional textbooks, which became recognized by Somaliland’s state administration. In the last example, the state’s free primary education policy was rejected. Only some schools implemented free primary education, and only in a partial manner. By looking at these cases, we have shown how the symbolic power of the state is constructed and used. The state’s policies, regulations, and administrative framework are used by different non-state actors, and become productive in their practices of organizing education delivery. Yet this power itself is co-produced. In other words, the state administration only becomes naturalized when non-state actors decide to actively contribute (i.e. when it is in their interest).


To come back to the student’s question introducing this paper, the state (or more precisely ‘the idea of the state’) endures (or ‘stays’) because it is productive for nonstate actors in their continuous practices of delivery primary education. Put differently, the state itself is an ‘effect’ of the variety of practices which take place in providing education services.

It is important to stress that the situation in Somaliland’s education sector should not be romanticized. For example, the everyday negotiations of access to ‘free education’ depending on loosely defined categories such being ‘who is poor enough’, can produce rather uneven access to education. For example, it might vary according to people’s connections to the headteacher, or individual abilities to convey that they are ‘poor enough’. Likewise, personal connections between diaspora group members and officials in the ministry can also produce uneven and unjust access to networks of the state. As shown above, while there is a basic unwritten rule in recognizing schools (they need to be ‘up and running’), this is still decided on a case by case basis, meaning that personal connections and power again play a role in determining outcomes.

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