Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington

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The Fit between Policy, Theory and Practice of Participatory Development in Aid Assisted Education Projects in Kenya

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posted on 2021-11-09, 01:59 authored by Mwanzia, Josephine Syokau

This research critically examines the efficacy of mainstream aid development projects that embrace people-centred, participatory approaches and government partnerships with multilateral and bilateral agencies (donors), civil society and local communities to enhance benefits of empowerment and social change to disadvantaged people. The thesis used an example of an aid project, the Basic Education Improvement Project (BEIP) which the GOK implemented in partnership with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and disadvantaged communities in urban slums and marginalised rural areas particularly Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs). The thesis further drew upon structural and poststructural perspectives to respond to the developmental challenges posed by the theories of modernisation, dependency, ADev and postdevelopment and to assess the 'fit' between policy, theory and practice of participatory development (PDev) and its relationships to participatory democracy (PDem). Core ideas came from Robert Chambers Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), Rowlands' classification of power, Arnstein's ladder for citizen participation and Ife's approach to community development (CDev). To understand the meanings and impacts of the BEIP structure, partnerships, participation, empowerment, sustainability and social change, and the relational dynamics it generated, the thesis used multiple research methods based on qualitative, case study and grounded theory methodologies. These were chosen because of their compatibility with the critical theory used to analyse government-to-donor led and people-led development as enacted in the BEIP and their sensitivity to researcher flexibility and contextual and unique features of the research. The research shows that mainstream PDev management through bureaucratically organised structures of management and governance creates new forms of centralism where representative democracy (RDem) rather than participatory democracy (PDem) are used. Despite having a strong focus on holistic and balanced development, the enactment and implementation of partnerships and participation within an aid delivery system, and through representatives and technical experts, limited benefits of empowerment and social change to the disadvantaged people. Indeed, participation and collaboration in the BEIP enhanced the teaching and learning environments of the targeted schools and increased awareness of rights to the disadvantage people. However, not only did accountability remain top-down but partnerships emerged through competitive, not cooperative relationships. Such top-down approaches and elite-to-elite social networks contributed to social exclusion, further marginalisation of the disadvantaged people, and risked accentuating dependency on external aid. For these reasons, the thesis argues that emancipation of disadvantaged people and realisation of sustainable development are more likely to emerge through interventions that increase participatory practice, where government partnerships with civil society and local communities draw upon cooperative  principles, that promote structures and discourses of citizenship and rights and that focus on the grassroots, not the nation-state as the locale for social change.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education Policy and Implementation


Strathdee, Robert; Sanga, Kabini