Dr Joanna Härmä
I am a writer working from home (which is Edinburgh for half the year, and the small hamlet of Chak Aarfi, Uttar Pradesh, India, for the other half of the year). My book, Low-Fee Private Schooling and Poverty in Developing Countries will be released by Bloomsbury Academic in January 2021, and am nearing the end of drafting my second book.
Until the end of 2019 I was an independent researcher doing studies in Sub-Saharan Africa for various independent foundations and development organisations. I have specialised on low-fee private schooling for the poor since conducting my doctoral study which examined whether these schools were accessible to the poor in rural Uttar Pradesh (although I have done work on many other aspects of education as well). I have visited hundreds of schools in the informal settlements (or slums) of Abuja, Lagos, Accra, Abidjan, Kampala, Dar es Salaam and Maputo. I have also done research in the villages and small towns of Central Region, Ghana, and Kwara State, Nigeria (I lived in Kwara for nearly three years). I have had the privilege to do yet other work in Liberia, Malawi and Kenya and have directed a study in Lusaka (but sadly couldn't accompany my fieldwork team on that study).
My most important work so far has been conducting (with DFID funding) the only comprehensive private school census ever carried out in a mega-city in the global south: Lagos, Nigeria. At the time (2010), the government thought they had about 4,000 private schools. With a team of 260 people drawn from civil society, private school associations, and the Ministry of Education, we combed every street and back alley of the city (and state) to find 12,098. This figure is often cited, and forms the basis of all estimates of the current number of private schools in the state. Some thought that the number had reached 18,000+ schools by 2016. The data my team gathered was instrumental in beginning to bring about a change of perspective on the private schooling sector on the part of the state government. Private school associations members told me in 2016 that this work meant a material positive change in their situations. The basic census report can be found on my Research Reports page.
Lastly, I am always living vicariously through my husband's experiences and frustrations of running a school that was all charitable when we started it as naive young people in July 2004, but through economic necessity is now part-charitable (for our poor students) and part fee-paying (for better-off families who want to enrol their girls because it is a good, safe school). It is a daily struggle and I have learned so much from him, through his work and experiences. And I continue to learn and learn from every interview I am part of, at every low-fee private school or household that I visit during my research.
Low-fee private schooling for the poor
The struggles of parents to educate their children, in rural villages and urban informal settlements
2004 - 2008
University of Sussex, Centre for International Education
DPhil - International Education
Early childhood education
The importance of supporting children from the start
Empire and Colonialism
The impact that the British Empire has had on South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of identity, society and education.
And the right to education; labour rights; housing rights
2000 - 2001
University of Essex
LLM - International Human Rights Law
1999 - 2000
College of Law of England and Wales
Post-graduate Diploma in Law
1995 - 1999
University of St Andrews
MA (hons) - Modern History