World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Education, employment and social capital in Khartoum, Sudan: Issues of inclusion and exclusion (390) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: THU 22, 5.00-7.00 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: University of Sussex (United Kingdom)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Paul Fean

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Education is viewed as a key element of economic and social development, particularly due to its role in enhancing learners’ access to employment opportunities. However, education and employment processes are located within political and social identities and relations and require deeper examination. This is particularly relevant to Sudan, which has a complex ethnically, culturally and economically diverse population experiencing rapid socio-political change. To problematise the relationship between education, employment and social relations, this panel discusses the experiences of students and graduates of different education institutions’ an elite private school, universities and adult education centres. These act as microcosms for the varied forms of socialisation, acculturation and networking experienced by learners in Sudan, and highlight the contrast between those benefiting from, and those excluded from, the current economic boom in Khartoum. This contrast facilitates discussion of social capital, in the form of ‘wasta’, which, in the context of an under-funded public education system that fails to offer reliable qualifications, offers alternative ways of accessing employment opportunities. The panel ends with cross-cultural theoretical discussion of the relationship between education and social capital of marginalised groups.

Chair: Hania Sobhy (University of London - School of Oriental and African Studies)

Paper presenter: G. Makris (Panteion University, Greece), “KIC Starting modernisation in Khartoum”
In this paper I am concerned with Khartoum International Community School (KICS), which advances a type of Western, secular, free market, globalising discourse I find predatory in the way it advances in the Arab world and elsewhere. I shall first problematise the term ‘community’ as it exists in the school’s name, followed by a sociological analysis of the parents and staff so as to position the school and its clientele/pupils within the parameters of Sudanese private education. I shall discuss the school’s mission and curriculum in the context of today’s flourishing market for IB Diplomas internationally. In this framework, I shall discuss enunciations offered by informants, which place education within a modernisation developmental paradigm, such as ‘without a school like KICS, many expatriate and other international hires, might have elected not to come to the Sudan’ or ‘Sudanese students of KICS will get their higher education abroad and will then return to their country for good’. Approaching KICS as an example of the commoditisation of education, I shall reflect on what kind of modern subjects such an education may produce, how they function within the hegemonic knowledge economies of neo-liberal governments, and how they can be articulated with other Sudanese identities fashioned by the national educational system.

Paper presenter: Laura Mann (Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh, UK), “Qualifications as signals? Education, employment and trust in Sudan”
While the provision of higher education is chiefly a way to acquire human capital (i.e. skills and competencies), it is also a way of acquiring signals about these skills and competencies to potential employers. It is a powerful tool of trust in society as it allows strangers to be assessed by agents with whom they do not have a personal relationship. In this way, qualifications have the potential to bring ‘outsiders’ into an economic community. In the absence of reliable qualifications, individuals must find other ways to signal their competence and trustworthiness. The expansion and deterioration of higher education in Sudan has weakened the potential of qualifications to act as reliable signals. Young people are employing alternative strategies to set themselves apart. This paper examines these strategies by using the notion of social capital, the value that individuals derive from their social connections. Social capital governs both access to information and access to privileged opportunity. I argue that membership in social networks is mediated strongly by identity, and that individuals can mould themselves into new identities by changing their patterns of socialization, accessing foreign education and employment and joining political organizations. Some of these strategies are not accessible to all and require substantial financial or ideological commitment. Therefore, the deterioration of Sudanese higher education has disadvantaged poorer students and deepened social divisions.

Paper presenter: Paul Fean (University of Sussex, UK), “Education, aspirations and social capital: adult learners in Khartoum”
Students in Adult Education Schools in Khartoum are from the fringes of the city and impoverished rural areas, and frequently from conflict-affected areas of the country. Excluded from many educational and professional opportunities, the learners are economically and politically marginalised. Yet, despite such structural disadvantage, they pursue education, even in addition to working in paid employment. The Ministries of Education and development agencies in Sudan have expressed their commitment to the expansion of adult education, relating such programmes to the economic development of the ‘beneficiaries’. However, given the marginalisation of the learners in these schools, in this paper the relationship between education and economic opportunities is problematised. Drawing on the ethnographic elements of an action research project with teachers from six Adult Education Schools, this paper investigates the learners’ schooling experience and motivations to study, followed by exploration of their future aspirations and perceptions of the challenges socially excluded groups face in finding employment. The paper ends with wider discussion of the relation between education, employment and social capital of marginalised groups in Sudan.

Paper presenter: Giorgos Tsimouris (Panteion University, Greece), “Education for democracy and development in the age of forced migration: Sudan in a cross-cultural theoretical perspective”
In the post-colonial world, a large number of the people deprived of the basic means for survival and educational resources are migrants and other marginalised communities. It has been documented that educational advancement is crucial for integrating and empowering the non-privileged and that it can contribute to social cohesion and development. By contrast, educational underachievement drives marginalised groups into further poverty, unemployment and social exclusion. Educational performance is closely associated with employment opportunities, as educational documents bear high symbolic value and operate as passports for entrance in the work environment, degrees act as markers of professional competence and cultural capital. If this does not happen, as it is often the case in regions with political instability, institutional inefficiency and poor education, less formal paths are employed to access employment and opportunity. As pre-existing family and community ties are crucial for accessing this form of trust and employment, outsiders and newcomers lack these connections and may find themselves more socially excluded. Drawing from cross-cultural resources and especially from Sudan, this paper attempts to substantiate the view that if education is to contribute to social cohesion, development and democracy, it should be a well-funded public good with high symbolic value.