Education and Empowered Citizenship

Finalist African Politics Conference Group Book of the Year Award 2015 jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/content/education-and-empowered-citizenship-mali

Primary school enrollment has increased dramatically in sub Saharan Africa since democratization in the 1990s.  A large theoretical literature in political science identifies education as a tool for democracy and state-building.  This project forecasts the effect of expanded access to schooling and the liberalization of educational sectors by analyzing the relationship between parents’ and students’ educational experiences and their participation in politics.   In a landscape of the declining quality of public education and a multitude of accredited private providers, including Islamic, Arabic- language schools, does schooling contribute to citizens’ political knowledge and participation?  Are all educational institutions equally capable of forming democratic citizens?   

I address this question in Mali, where primary enrollment has more than doubled since democratization and non-state providers educate nearly 40% of all primary students.  I draw on more than a year of fieldwork including a survey of 1000 Malian citizens in Bamako, Kayes, Timbuktu, Mopti, and Sikasso, an exit poll of 450 voters in Bamako during the 2009 communal elections, a survey of 200 university students, and interviews with over 50 educators and school administrators.

I find that all types of education, including informal and Islamic schooling, heighten political knowledge.  I find positive relationship between formal education and difficult political participation.  I argue that formal education, especially at higher levels, empowers citizens to participate in more difficult political activities by increasing internal efficacy and French language skills.

I also find signficant effects of different types of schooling on parents’ political participation.  Parents whose children attend/attended public school are more likely to report campaigning or voting than other citizens.  Conversely, parents who send their children to madrassas are less likely to report voting than other citizens.

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