Researching the politics of development



School governance in a fragmented political and bureaucratic environment: Case studies from South Africa’s Eastern Cape province

Working paper 84

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Brian Levy and Lawule Shumane
This paper explores governance dynamics in four case study schools in low-income communities in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province. A main aim is to identify empirically the causal mechanisms through which horizontal, school-level governance might function as an ‘institutional substitute’ for weaknesses in the province’s education bureaucracy. The case studies uncovered both vicious circles of capture, and virtuous spirals  – with the latter characterised by shared developmental commitment among school leaders, teachers, parents and the community, strong enough to counter efforts at predation. The findings offer encouragement that non-hierarchical entry points for improving educational outcomes indeed have some potential to achieve  gains.