Fabrice Jaumont has written a book that needed to be written decades ago. Unequal Partners: American Foundations and Higher Education Development in Africa tells the complicated story of how philanthropy has shaped higher education, in both positive and negative ways. Although the “great” philanthropists have been lauded in many books for decades, recent scholarship has challenged their benevolence and that of their foundations. Jaumont provides a fair portrayal of major foundation players in African higher education—those with a long track record and those that have just started to play a role. Rather than present these foundations as saviors that uplift higher education on the continent, Jaumont presents a nuanced view, detailing the profound impact as well as the “unequal” relationships that result when one of the partners has more resources and the other is in need of resources. Of note, the discussions and themes featured in the book are useful to those studying and working with foundations in the USA as well as in Africa. Interestingly, many of the interventions in Africa are similar to those in urban and minority communities in the USA. Overall, Unequal Partners is beautifully written, succinctly and effectively argued, and timely.
I contributed an article with Jack Klempay in Reconsidering Development, an international, open access, and peer reviewed e-journal that aims to create an equitable space for dialogue and discussion concerning the theory and practice of international development (published by the University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing). Continue reading →
Issues around the impact of donor funding on education reform have resurfaced both in the local and global arenas. A recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times  questioned the role of foundations and philanthropists in U.S. public education, highlighting the Gates Foundation’s debatable “failures” to accomplish concrete results. On her well-followed blog, Diane Ravitch even called the funding choices of Bill Gates, Eli Broad or the Walton Family “unwise” and “undemocratic” . This debate is hardly new as major newspapers  have regularly underscored the negative impact of major private donors’ gifts on the United States’ secondary school system, particularly during the dire economic climate which left schools facing abysmal budget cuts. Continue reading →