This article considers the indigenization of democracy by conceptualizing participatory deliberative decision-making practice as a tool to strengthen the functioning of local schools and to enhance democratic responsiveness within communities. Drawing on case-studies of bottom-up approaches to school governance, this study examines an array of innovative participatory governance practices that have emerged in diverse rural settings to make the state more responsive and accountable to the education of marginalized children. The author argues that these practices have enabled a fuller realization of people’s rights and have enhanced their ability to influence larger institutions and policies affecting the schooling and life-options of their children.
Participatory school governance can enhance local empowerment by better enabling communities to raise concerns, hold the state accountable, set agendas, build social capital, and evolve indigenous solutions to local problems. These people-centric efforts further gain significance as they emerge against a backdrop of enduring inequalities and asymmetries embedded in the mainstream educational and social systems. However, in the absence of a supporting context, these school renewal practices run the risk of either withering away or degenerating into piecemeal measures for crisis intervention, leaving neither a legacy of empowerment nor a hint of systemic change.