NGOs and the transformational state : theorizing the ambiguities of educational development and change in post-apartheid South Africa

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The focus of this thesis is the crisis currently affecting the NGO sector in South Africa and profound implications that it has for the development process South Africa. The thesis sets out to examine the extent to which the state and civil society can collaborate under conditions of transformation and restructuring to ensure the equitable achievement of wide-scale social amelioration. The thesis surveys the current state of the NGO sector in South Africa and then moves to the micro level to examine the development work of a medium-sized educational NGO and the implementation of one of its donor-funded projects the Northern Cape province of South Africa. The argument is put forward that although this project is very context- specific it illuminates a set of problems are generalizable across the NGO sector. The difficulties being experienced by NGOs are analyzed using elements of Gidden's 'structuration theory' and Hargreaves's 'educational restructuring' matrix to chart prevailing development practice within the state-civil society nexus. It is argued that these positions yield four interlinked and recursive elements that are used as theoretical tools to explore the praxis of South NGOs. The thesis proceeds to examine sequentially, and within the parameters of the structure-agency debate, how tensions and ambiguities are generated within the symbolic order, through the manifestations of power and authority within the policy-making process and through the allocation of resources determine space and contextual realities within which NGOs operate. The argument is put forward that one of the key tasks for NGOs is the necessity of constructing theoretical models that not only inform and shape their development practice but are also recursively modified by changing circumstances and conditions. The thesis concludes that engagement in this form of praxis may one for NGOs to ensure their survival and adds some suggestions for the way forward.

Includes bibliographical references.