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“Nothing but Time”: Middle Figures, Student Pregnancy Policy, and the Malawian State

  • Rachel Silver

This article explores state/NGO/funder relations in Africa through an ethnographic case study of Malawi’s Readmission Policy. The Policy, which banned the permanent expulsion of pregnant girls from school in 1993, underwent a formal, government-led review in 2016. By focusing attention on the daily work of “middle figures”—the mid-level civil servants, NGO representatives, and consultants who participated in the policy reform process—this article shows how state disempowerment in Malawi was not wholesale, even as aid funding for development policymaking bypassed government. Rather, government actors deployed key strategies, including time (mis)management, to reclaim moral authority over Malawian schools.

Cet article explore les relations État / ONG / organismes subventionnels en Afrique à travers une étude ethnographique de la politique de réadmission du Malawi, qui interdisait l’expulsion permanente de filles enceintes à l’école en 1993 et qui a fait l’objet d’une révision finale en 2016. En concentrant l’attention sur le travail quotidien des « personnes de rang intermédiaire » comme les fonctionnaires de niveau intermédiaire, les représentants des ONG et les consultants ayant participé au processus de réforme des politiques - cela montre à quel point la désautonomisation de l’État au Malawi n’a pas été totale, même en tant que source financière d’aide pour l’élaboration de politiques de développement qui contourne le gouvernement. Les acteurs gouvernementaux ont plutôt déployé des stratégies clés, y compris une gestion (temporelle) du temps, pour recouvrer l’autorité morale sur les écoles malawiennes.

Partindo de um estudo de caso etnográfico relativo à Lei da Readmissão no Malawi – que em 1993 proibiu que as jovens grávidas fossem expulsas das escolas para sempre e que sofreu uma revisão formal em 2016 –, o presente artigo explora as relações entre Estado, ONG e financiadores no contexto africano. Com enfoque no trabalho diário das “figuras do meio” – funcionários públicos de nível intermédio, representantes de ONG e consultores que participaram no processo de reforma legislativa –, demonstramos que não houve uma total desautorização do Estado malawiano, nem mesmo quando as ajudas financeiras para a implementação de políticas desenvolvimentistas contornaram o governo. Em vez disso, os membros do governo recorreram a estratégias-chave, incluindo a (má) gestão do tempo, de modo a reivindicarem para si a autoridade moral sobre as escolas do Malawi.

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African Studies Review
  • ISSN: 0002-0206
  • EISSN: 1555-2462
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