Call edition 2012
A new edition of the Prize of the Belgian Development Cooperation has been launched. This call is open until March 31st, 2011. You can read in the regulations whether you comply with the criteria for participation.
This fascinating dissertation presents research into how, in Kinshasa, local private organizations, which can be seen as part of the fabric of civil society, provide primary education in a relatively stateless context. It is fair to say that there is little public education left in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and that these private initiatives seek to fill a void left by years of government neglect of educational provision. Nevertheless, the freedom from state control that applies to a very great extent in the economic field does not seem entirely to apply here, at least not in Kinshasa. This is because the state still retains its monopoly on the granting of school certificates and therefore on the control of educational careers and (certain) developmental possibilities. The dissertation clarifies not only the concrete development of private education but also the large discrepancies between different initiatives (where relative wealth can be seen to play a major role) and in particular how the middle level of trade unions and associations of private schools play a role in the empowerment of civil society. This is the level that is supported by international donors.
Also of interest is that it becomes clear that in practice the distinction between the state and private initiatives (civil society) is not paramount. In fact, in a situation in which almost the whole populace is reduced to strategies of survival (including representatives of the state, such as school inspectors) and in which private schools are an important means to make (some) money, both are to a high degree intertwined. The relationship between state and civil society is therefore far from one of (complete) rejection or separation, as is also apparent from the aspirations of the people of Kinshasa themselves, who are quoted at length in the dissertation. They make clear that they are proud of the fact that in very hard circumstances they are capable of organizing educational provision without the support of the state. However, remarkably enough, they also yearn for the development (or restoration) of a strong state, which they ultimately appear to consider the only hope for their private initiatives to contribute to a new Congolese society worthy of its citizens.
As a dissertation for the licentiate degree, this study impresses with the scope and depth of the research and the nuanced and differentiated picture it gives of the complex Congolese context. It testifies to great skill at synthesis, and exceptional maturity and intellectual ability.
report: Prof. J. Masschelein, Department of Educational Sciences, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium