Lessons in Development: Official Schooling Narratives in Spaces of De-Proletarianization

Authors: Jacob Henry*, University of Hawaii - Manoa
Topics: Development, Africa
Keywords: Schooling; Development; Jobs; Labour; Workforce
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Wilson C, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While training and schooling are continuously cited by official discourses and everyday narratives as a way to improve individual lives and populations, such dreams are hindered when production isn’t viable and capitalism expels rather than incorporates workers (Sassen 2014). Following James Ferguson (2015), I will argue that ‘development’ cannot be tied to training and education for job force participation. While the chance at a “proper job” diminishes, schools which are structured to train a conventional labor force are engulfing an increasing number of people (Ferguson and Li 2018; Kendall 2007). I follow Tania Li’s (2013) call to problematize “promissory narratives.” Capitalism has never supported all and today supports many fewer. I will present an analysis of official statements of ‘education for all’ development strategies in Namibia against the emerging and classical literature on surplus populations. The “promissory narratives” of post-independence schooling replayed the development story: with a new curriculum and a new language (English) Namibians could finally reject educational apartheid and presumably achieve a new brand of modernization (Ferguson 2006 ch. 6; Melber 2015). However, the methods of schooling in the rural North mimic the classic industrialist schooling model described by Bowles and Gintis (2011) and the curricular foci emphasize behaviors “compatible with…the penetration of the free-market economic system” (Tabulawa 2003:18). Schools in surplus space are rife with contradictions—material, ideological, historical—that educators must negotiate on a daily basis.

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