Between Bureaucrats: Education and the Making of the State in Ghana

This dissertation explores the lives and practices of circuit supervisors (CSs), mid-level bureaucrats in the Ghanaian state’s decentralized education system who, characterize themselves as managing the human capital of the nation. As state agents and citizen actors, CSs traverse the space between the managerial demands of global and national institutions, and the educational needs and interest of the schools and communities they serve. In the developmentalist Ghanaian state, they are important yet under-theorized players. Finely combing their negotiations of state-school-citizen relations, this research maps how three key neoliberal(izing) governance mechanisms—participatory democracy, decentralization, and privatization—affect the meaning and practice of their jobs as educational supervisors. CSs confront and navigate forces that strip resources from the public education sector;deprofessionalize them in service to international norms of accountability, transparency, and efficiency;and hold them increasingly responsible for school quality. In so doing, CSs experiences of trying to improve Ghanaian schools make visible the techno-rationalization of the developmentalist state and the way that managerial forms of governance are coming to dominate over more democratic, participatory ones. In the missing middle, the space between policy and its effect, CSs negotiate how development works in the quotidian.

Sophia Friedson-Ridenour