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An archive of features about Popular Education

Report on National Popular Education Development Workshop: Traditions of Popular Education

In June 2014, a stimulating and inspiring national popular education workshop was held on traditions of popular education! Read the report and learn  more here!

The second National Popular Education National Workshop, funded by DVV International South Africa, was attended by 30 participants. It took place at the Grail Centre in Kleinmond over 27 – 29 June 2014. Building on feedback from the first workshop in 2013, this workshop focused on concepts and traditions informing popular education. It was structured as follows:

• Session 1: Introductions

• Session 2: Traditions of popular education

• Session 3: Popular education and the state

• Session 4: Dreaming social and environmental justice; and

• Session 5: Planning for action.

It used highly participatory methodologies, including icebreakers, small group work with galleries and collective integration of feedback from all groups, role plays and short inputs. Astrid von Kotze, Derrick Naidoo and Vanessa Reynolds of the Popular Education Programme, and Carme Martínez-Roca of the International Foundation for Interdisciplinary Health Promotion were the primary facilitators of the workshop. Other participants also assisted by facilitating many of the icebreakers and energy breaks.

An optional evening programme included viewings of John Pilger’s End of Apartheid? and the recently released Marikana: Miners shot down.

JANAM on Tour in South Africa!

Jana Natya Manch, New Delhi, India

Established in 1973, Jana Natya Manch (People’s Theatre Group; ‘Janam’ for short) is India’s preeminent left wing political theatre group.

Best known for its street theatre, the group has about 8,000 performances of about 100 plays in over 175 towns and villages of India to its credit. All of its street plays, and most of its other plays, are original works. In most years, Janam does about 200 performances.

Many of Janam’s signature street plays — Machine, Aurat Heart Desires More, O Guru) and others — have been performed all over India by dozens (Woman), Voh Bol Uthi (And She Spoke Up), Yeh Dil Mange More, Guruji  of street theatre groups in several languages.

On January 1, 1989, Janam was attacked as it performed a play on workers’ rights on the outskirts of Delhi. Janam’s main creative and organizational leader, Safdar Hashmi, was killed in this attack, as was an industrial worker, Ram Bahadur. The killing led to widespread protests all over India, and today, 25 years later, Safdar’s name has become a symbol of protest and progressive culture.

Janam works in close association with a large number of activist groups — trade unions, women’s groups, student groups, etc. It also works with the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Popular Education: Inspiring Activism and Education, with JANAM People's Theatre Group on Tour from India!

(i) 11th Annual Vice Chancellor’s Julius Nyerere Lecture on Lifelong Learning: Popular Education: Inspiring Activism and Education

Thursday 30 October 2014 from 12h00 – 14h30 at UWC’s Senate Hall

The late Tanzanian President Nyerere dedicated his life to issues of social justice for the majority of people. As one of his strategies in newly independent Tanzania in the early 1960s, he emphasized the importance of adult education as integral to a lifelong learning philosophy and approach which would encourage African socialism including self-reliance amongst Tanzanians. In the spirit of these commitments, UWC’s Vice Chancellor inaugurated an annual Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Lecture on Lifelong Learning. In 2013 the 10th consecutive lecture was delivered by Dr Saleem Badat.

For the 2014 lecture, the Vice Chancellor has invited Professor Emeritus Shirley Walters, who leads an action research project on Re-membering Traditions of Popular Education to coordinate the interactive event.  The event, which occurs on the 30 October 2014, has an innovative focus on popular education that is informed by a strong commitment to social justice. It is entitled Popular Education: Inspiring activism and education. A well-known popular education street theatre group from Delhi, India, will be participating.

JOIN The People's Climate March!

“Today the lottery of where one is born substantially determines one’s life chances. So we end up with grave injustices delivered to part of the human family on the basis of geographic location. For example, the people least responsible for the carbon emissions from the industrial revolution onwards are the most vulnerable to climate change and least able, with current resources, to mitigate and adapt to a low carbon future.” Kumi Naidoo (2010) Boiling Point: Can citizen action save the world?

All over the world, from rural communities to prosperous industrialists, from environmental activists to government representatives, people talk about climate change and global warming. And the questions on everyone’s lips are: what can we do to reduce carbon emissions? How can we act now to avert the worst risks that will affect in particular those who are most vulnerable, in years to come? 

Below you will find links to a range of organisations that act on climate change, readings, resources and films to brush up your understanding and to engage with.

Importantly, join in the action planned for SUNDAY 21 SEPTEMBER!


Salma Ismail: Cuba - Resilience and Renovation (June 2014)

I had a wonderful research visit in Cuba, organised and planned by Prof. Peggy Rivage-Seul (Berea College in the USA) who invited me to join a programme entitled ‘Cuba in the Twenty-First Century: Pedagogy and Promise’. When you fly into the airport in Havana and walk around everywhere in Cuba you are greeted by revolutionary posters and statues, but no advertisements, see pictures below.

The writing on the first poster says, ’We will be like Che’. Che best expresses the links with Popular Education as he stressed the moral imperative of education. For him economic sustainability was linked to education and building a consciousness of social justice and transformation (Briedlid, 2013)

The seminars took place at the Cuban Institute of Friendship (ICAP) in Havana. In addition to the seminars we visited community organisations and co-operative organic farming projects in the city. I received funding from the Centre for Integrated Post-School Education and Training at NNMU, National Research Fund and UCT.

Background: learning from seminars

The Centre for Adult and Continuing Education, UWC

2014 marks the closure of the last stand alone Adult Education Centre at South Africa’s universities. First, adult education programmes at WITS lost their home base and were merged with others in the Faculty of Education.

UCT followed, then the University of the North. Recently, the Centre for Adult Education at UKZN was 'restructured' to become part of the School of Education and now, finally, UWC’s Centre for Adult and Continuing Education (CACE), legendary for it's engagement with popular education, has lost its ‘centre’ status and has been merged into the new Institute for Post-School Studies, along with Vocational Education and Training and Higher Education.


Building a United Front Against Neo-Liberalism: South African Metalworkers Change Course by Judith Marshall

Watching the events to commemorate Mandela's death was to watch history being re-written. Mandela the terrorist was forgotten. International leaders of every stripe struggled to bask in his aura of courage and forgiveness as if they'd always been at his side. The jagged and tumultuous and contested path of the internal forces to end apartheid was not part of the narrative nor was the multi-facetted international anti-apartheid movement visible in the story.

Yet the profound disappointments with what the liberation movement in power has delivered could not be written out of the script. Boos interrupted the peons of praise for Mandela each time President Jacob Zuma rose to speak. The spontaneous protest against Zuma's most recent scandal, squandering C$20 million of state funds to build a palatial home at Inkandla, could not be kept hidden. Watching president-in-waiting Cyril Ramaphosa, ex-mineworkers' leader turned powerful business tycoon, maneuvering adroitly at Zuma's side, filled me with foreboding for the years ahead.


Jana Natya Manch is a radical street theatre group in India. Founded in 1973 has done thousands of performances of its street plays and full staged plays. It has worked in over 140 towns, cities and villages of India.

In January 2014, we conducted an interview with Sudu (Sudhanva Deshpande, Janam actor, director and writer) and Mala (Moloyashree Hashmi, actress and leading organiser) as part of the ‘traditions of popular education’ research. Here, we present an edited extract. Street theatre is one form of popular education and we have a lot to learn from people wiho have that much experience as Sudu and Mala!

Training for Transformation: 1973 - 2013 and still going strong…

Last year, Training for Transformation (TfT) a local and global popular education movement, turned 40. They celebrated in true TfT style with a ‘think-well’ that brought together some 40 people from all over the world, to dialogue, write and renew relationships, commitment and hope.

This combination of compassionate being-together, critical reflection and action is what TfT is all about: a philosophy and approach to community development that is deeply and holistically rooted in both the belief in and daily practice of social justice.