Negotiating on a seesaw : the decentralisation of education and health services in Uganda and Tanzania from a local perspective and in a historical context : a dissertation presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University, New Zealand
Since the 1990s, development policies have favoured the decentralisation of education and health services in Africa. Between 1997 and 2001, central governments of Uganda and Tanzania overhauled the formal frameworks and expanded the managerial and financial responsibilities of the local management committees of schools and dispensaries. This thesis examines how these changes affect the way in which these management committees engage with central government and with the local polity in which they operate.
Field research in 2004 with 64 management committees in Uganda and Tanzania suggests that while central governments may appear to initiate decentralisation policies, they are essentially responding to developments in local polities. Similarly, central government may set regulations for management committees, but the diversity in local practices suggests that local circumstances and local agency are more likely determinants of how schools or dispensaries are actually managed.
An analysis of the personal profiles of committee members reveals they mostly belong to the same segment of the population in the local polity; government‟s (s)election criteria or sector-specific factors play no role. Committee members do not „capture‟ committees as their personal fiefdom, but within a local polity it is likely that most functions in boards or committees are occupied on a rotational basis by a small group of individuals because more than half of the committee members simultaneously hold three or four positions.
When taking a historical perspective, dominance in the institutional framework between local management committees and central government seesaws over periods of 15-30 years. If the wider institutional framework between local polities and central government since the late 19th century is studied, it becomes clear that the local resources flowing to government have varied in time – ivory, coffee, votes – but typically had limited local value, while commanding high prices on the international market. This secured cash income for central government, but also a negotiating lever for local polities. Throughout time, local polities have thus actively negotiated – from engagement to evasion – their institutional framework with central governments. The contemporary dynamic around school and dispensary committees is exemplary of that historical seesaw.