Feature Article

 

Brief report on Colloquium on Forging Solidarity: Southern Perspectives of Popular Education, 9 - 11 June 2016

Image caption: Solidarity Mural

(Hosted by Traditions of Popular Education Research Project, University of Western Cape, supported by National Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) www.populareducation.co.za)

Some fifty people gathered at the colloquium which was held at the Sustainability Institute, Stellenbosch. Participants came from different organisations, including academic institutions, government, social movements and NGOs, from as far away as Chile, India, Senegal and Canada and as close as Delft, Khayelitsha and Grahamstown. They brought with them focus, energy and willingness to be creative, and a commitment to engage with critical questions both on a one on one basis, around tables, and in plenary sessions.  The aims of the colloquium were to grapple with the central theme and in the process give food for thought to 20 people who are contributing chapters to a book of the same name. Presentations were made, in the main, by contributors to the forthcoming book.

Tablecloth image - solidarity in different languages

Let's talk about popular education!

Introduction

This work-in-progress narrative derives from an initial 18-month research project entitled ‘Remembering traditions of popular education’ . It seeks to shed some light on various claims about popular education made by different people and groups in past and present South Africa. The researchers conducted in-depth interviews with over 20 people, asking them to describe how they became activist-educators for social justice and what sustains their commitment; to name some of the influences on their practice; and to offer advice for current activist-educators. At the end, we invite you to contribute your questions and insights as to the relevance of popular education for today and we offer further resources for dialogue.

Here, we cite only a fraction of what experienced popular educators have said, and we offer audio-clips that bring their voices to life. While we also interviewed international practitioners, for now, we focus mainly on South Africans.

Stories of struggle make visible how popular education is closely tied to particular contexts and contingent upon specific conditions. Knowledge generated in processes of popular education primarily serves those who are participants in the dialogues. But it can illuminate how such knowledge becomes useful in the struggle for change and transformation.

People's Education for People's Power

‘People’s Education for People’s Power’ emerged as a concept, vision and programme of action out of the education crisis of 1985. It was based on a rejection of Apartheid education epitomized in the ongoing school boycotts of 1984/5, but moved further to envision education for the majority of the people – students, parents, teachers and workers. According to Kruss (1988, p. 9) “Students, teachers, and parents began to question what a different, alternative education system would be like. What would be its underlying principles? What would be its method and content? …”

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