Education and Empowered Citizenship in Mali.

Author:Zongo, Opportune
Position:AFRICA - Book review

Bleck, Jaimie. Education and Empowered Citizenship in Mali. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015.

Anyone seeking a book that authoritatively examines and discusses education and contemporary African politics will be greatly satisfied with Jaimie Bleck's Education and Empowered Citizenship in Mali. Bleck is a former program assistant for a USAID-funded education initiative charged with distributing thousands of primary school scholarships to twenty-five countries in central and southern Africa. Personally and professionally impacted by his experiences of talking with young students, their parents, school officials, and government administrators in Mali, Bleck undertook to highlight how education might contribute to empowered citizenship in democratizing regimes in Africa. He also examines the impact of government efforts and donor initiatives to expand access to citizenship in nascent African democracies. The result is a soundly researched, scholarly, relevant, and culturally balanced book.

The book opens with the assertions that the transitions to democracy that enveloped sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s have been accompanied by dramatic increases in school enrollment and that newly elected governments have since expanded access to primary education at historically unprecedented rates. Bleck argues that most African countries and international donors did not articulate education expansion as a strategy for improving democratic citizenship; instead, they saw it as a way to improve human development. He also argues that scholars have yet to explore the implications of such changes for citizenship in Africa. This book seeks to fill that analytical void by bridging the comparative literature on schooling and citizenship with the literature on the political economy and development of social welfare provision.

The book examines diverse schooling providers, including public, private, secular, and religious, and investigates whether all types of schooling affect citizenship equally. It primarily highlights and explains the ways citizens in many African countries are least likely to turn to an elected official or civil servant to express a need or idea and much prefer to lobby traditional authorities, economic players, or religious officials (p. 163). The uniqueness of the book lies primarily in the qualifications of the author, the methodology he used to conduct the research, and the various political, religious, and cultural factors...

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