What should we expect from the dramatic increase in school enrollment across Africa in the last two decades? Through a nuanced analysis of Mali in comparative context, Bleck persuasively argues that schools can teach students the tools of political participation and allow parents to connect with the state. Carefully reviewing the effects of three types of Malian schools—public, private Francophone, and Islamic—she finds that all three increase political knowledge. Higher levels of education do not, however, increase one’s propensity to pursue “easy” forms of political participation, such as voting: when citizens doubt the state’s effectiveness, abstaining might become an educated person’s way of expressing discontent. But education does encourage more “difficult” forms of participation, such as contacting government representatives, volunteering on campaigns, and running for office. Still, doing those things often requires the ability to speak the official language, French. And since French is transmitted through public and private Francophone schools much more than through Islamic schools, which focus on teaching Arabic, Bleck suspects that Islamic students will face obstacles to political participation at the highest levels.
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