Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
4-HP100 - 2/2: Education and Social Justice in the Pluriverse - 2/2
Tuesday, 06/July/2021:
3:30pm - 4:45pm

Session Chair: Dr. Paola Minoia, University of Helsinki, Finland
Session Chair: Dr. Johanna Maaria Hohenthal, University of Helsinki, Finland
Session Chair: Dr. Tuija Marita Veintie, University of Helsinki, Finland

Session Abstract

The SDG4 aims to promote social justice through engagement on “quality education for all”. However, it does not consider epistemic diversity of the world and the right to alternative ways of learning and knowledge production. Neither does it contain any reference to the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. Thus, Indigenous perspectives, knowledges and alternative forms of education remain marginalized in state-led and other development programs that typically reproduce models of neoliberal multiculturalism and fail to promote equal relations among existing cultures. This session welcomes papers that discuss pluriversal educational alternatives and critical intercultural education in diverse contexts.

EADI Working Group: Post- and Decolonial Perspectives on Development

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Fostering Indigenous young people’s socio-environmental consciousness through place-based learning in Ecuadorian Amazonia

Johanna Hohenthal, Tuija Veintie

University of Helsinki, Finland

Indigenous territories in Ecuadorian Amazonia are affected by various socio-environmental changes that are linked to resource extraction and the global climate change. Therefore, the development of critical consciousness and understanding of the socio-environmental issues is important within the young generation, the future leaders and defenders of the Indigenous territories. Our research argues for the importance of place-based learning in this process.

Our study focuses on the Indigenous young people who study in intercultural bilingual upper secondary schools in Pastaza province. We are interested in how these young people perceive their living environment and socio-environmental issues affecting it. In which ways youths’ daily world of experience and formal and informal learning spaces support place-based learning, develop critical socio-environmental consciousness and strengthen their territorial ties? How could a focus on a place be strengthened in the intercultural bilingual education programmes? We conducted participatory mapping, photo elicitation and interviews in three schools to study young people’s perceptions and learning about the socio-environmental issues in their living areas.

Our study recognizes the diversity of learning spaces that are important for the development of critical socio-environmental consciousness of the Indigenous young people. They learn about environmental issues through their own experience and with their family and the Indigenous community, thus engaging with local, place-based and Indigenous environmental knowledge and cosmovision. The encounters with socio-environmental issues, such as flooding, logging, littering, water contamination, and extractive and hydropower industries, have the potential to shape the young peoples’ attachment to place and their mobilities, to teach them about causalities in nature as well as to provide them with the possibility to analyze social, political and economic power relations that affect Indigenous territories. With family and community, the Indigenous youth learn about medicinal plants, farming, hunting, fishing and crafting skills. The youth also participate in community meetings and festivities where they learn about the local issues, politics and traditions. In the intercultural bilingual upper secondary school programmes, however, the socio-environmental issues are discussed mostly at a general level. More explicit connections to local issues and knowledge would contribute to pluriversalizing education and support students’ territorial ties, and critical socio-environmental consciousness. It is fundamental that the teachers are aware of local environmental issues, colonial histories, Indigenous knowledges and cosmovisions, which could help them to reflect on their teacher disposition and question the eurocentric thinking in the curriculum and instruction, and to find ways to apply place-based and Indigenous approaches and methods.

Professional Indigenous Women. The Use of Conventional Graduate Education to Reposition Indigenous Worldviews and Re-think Patriarchal Practices.

Marina Cadaval Narezo

ISS, Netherlands, The

Our presentation is a join effort to reflect on how conventional graduate education has been used by professional indigenous women from Mexico to reposition their peoples’ worldviews. It presents the voices of two women, a Ch’ol and a Nahua, who are currently professors at two Intercultural Universities (IU). As such, they are teaching (indigenous) students to reflect on themselves and their communities as producers of knowledge. We argue that to recognize, value and promote their own knowledges and practices is relevant for the construction of an ecology of knowledges (de Sousa Santos 2007) necessary in a world where many worlds fit (Enlace Zapatista 2021), or what Escobar has called the pluriverse (Escobar 2012). The three voices that weave the arguments and experiences shared here have met due the first fellowships program to promote the participation of indigenous peoples in graduate education, one as a former collaborator and the other two as alumni. Our arguments are constructed from contextual and situated positions (Haraway 1988; Harding 1991), understanding the process to produce knowledge as a relational accountability (Wilson 2008).

Integrating indigenous and Western knowledges in South African classrooms. Exploring some of the epistemological tensions.

Maren Seehawer

MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion & Society, Norway

For more than decades, scholars have called for the integration of indigenous and Western knowledge systems in African education. However, while SDG4 has brought a renewed and welcome focus on educational quality, the issue of epistemic diversity in the classroom is still largely missing in the mainstream international debates. Rather, the SDGs are signalling more of the same medicine: the promotion of a Western educational discourse. This paper builds on the argument that epistemic diversity is not an obstacle to, but indeed an aspect of, 21st century quality education, supporting both the decolonial imperative, educational relevance and sustainable development. The paper’s focus is on exploring some of the epistemological tensions that became apparent in the course of a 2015/17 participatory action research study in which South African science teachers integrated students’ local indigenous knowledges into their regular teaching.

The South African science curriculum invites teachers to integrate indigenous knowledges into their lessons, provided these knowledges relate directly to specific curriculum content. While presumably well-intended, this approach has proved to be problematic and counterproductive: it reinforces the marginal position of indigenous ways of knowing as other(ed) epistemologies while keeping untouched the status of Western epistemology as the norm. Our study made it clear that integrating indigenous ways of knowing into a Westernised education system gives rise to a number of epistemological tensions. For example, the compartmentalisation of knowledge into specialised subjects is questionable with regard to teaching holistic indigenous ways of knowing. What is more, the school and the classroom need to be reviewed regarding their suitability as default teaching settings. Indigenous knowledges are often practical in nature and were traditionally imparted in situated and informal learning settings. We also encountered tensions with regard to the universal validity claims of Western scientific knowledges vis-à-vis the local validity of indigenous ways of knowing. This local relevance and validity also raise questions how indigenous ways of knowing can and should be prescribed in a formal national curriculum.

The paper discusses these tensions by means of concrete examples from the study and situates them in the ongoing discourse on indigenising and decolonising African education. Considering such epistemological tensions is central to the task of rethinking 21st century education systems that enable the aspired co-existence, interaction and equality between the various epistemologies that students bring to their educational sites. Thereby, differently than in the current version of the South African curriculum, not the existing Westernised education system, but a consideration of the respective epistemological characteristics should serve as a point of departure.

Coloniality, Decolonialism and the Question of Malawi’s Agricultural Education System

Dumisani Zondiwe Moyo

University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

Agriculture is the most important sector of the Malawian economy, employing 80% of the population, contributing 39% of GDP, and accounting for 87% of foreign exchange earnings (World Bank, 2015). Under British occupation (1889-1964), “colonialism fuelled capitalism by arrogating to the settlers the means of economic production and by reducing the Africans to a labouring class or a rural peasantry” (Ng'ong'ola, 1986: 240); this was effected by disturbing Indigenous systems and efforts at progress, via repressive, coercive and paternalistic land and land use, labour, educational and market policies and regulations (Ng'ong'ola, 1986; Vaughan, 1982; Peters, 1997). An estate-based agricultural production and market system emerged, in which the Indegene was not intelligent enough to particpate at the same level of ‘freedom of contract’ as the settler (ibid.). Since Independence, the story of Malawi’s agricultural sector has shifted from that of a ‘healthy bread basket’ to one of dependence on aid, low land and labour productivity, and chronic famine (Quin, 1994), situating this sector within the problematics of modernity as well as global commodity chains and markets (Burkhart, 2019; Mignolo & Escobar, 2010; Maldonado-Torres, 2007, 2016). Nevertheless, with the promotion of the UN’s SDGs, Indigenous farming practices, and new modes of co-produced agricultural knowledges, have become valued for their sustainability, community and inclusiveness.

Bringing to bear an auto-ethnography, I trace the shifts in post-Independence Malawian agricultural education, agricultural practices and an ongoing coloniality. My father and I, both Indigenous Malawians and farmers, attended (25 years apart) agricultural training at Bunda College of Agriculture, the country’s main institution of higher education in agriculture. My father was trained in a practice-based system of general agriculture, designed to impart holistic knowledge of the farm system and its management; I was trained in agricultural economics with a strong bias towards theory and classwork. As long as agricultural efficiencies and successes are explained within a framework that extends form agricultural economics to policy formulations and assessments, then ‘failures’ in agriculture are noted almost solely in that light. Concomitantly, however, Indigenous arrangements and knowledges continue to make a mark on the land, and shape how extension projects, for instance, are engaged with (Vaughan, 1982; Peters, 1997; Moyo, 2009; Moyo and Moyo, 2017). The tense relations between now-entrenched formal agricultural training, and Indigenous knowledges, have become sharpened in an era of both climate change, and the ‘Rhodes must fall’ movement, which challenges universities to decolonise.

Inspired by contemporary understandings of coloniality as the intersection of knowledge, power and the valuing of particular modes of being (Maldonado-Torres, 2016), I explore two questions, namely: (1) How and with what impact is knowledge constructed as a commodity in Malawi’s agricultural education system, as opposed to a facilitation of life and well-being? And (2) How can formal education systems allow for a critique of the European paradigm, and the “politics of becoming ‘minor’” (Mignolo & Escobar, 2010), alongside efforts to ‘include’ Indigenous ways of doing? Utilizing Bunda College’s ‘general agriculture’ programme, as undertaken by my father, and its current agricultural economics syllabi as points of departure, I track agricultural education methodologies; the translation of the same into research products, policies, development programmes and projects; and their monitoring and evaluation methods. Documents reviewed thus include selected relevant college documents, national policy and planning documents, and documents of governmental and non-governmental agricultural projects and programmes.

Inclusive Adult Education as an Avenue for Greater Social Justice in Small-Scale Fisheries in Senegal

Cornelia E. Nauen1, Maria Fernanda Arraes Treffner2

1Mundus maris - Sciences and Arts for Sustainability, Belgium; 2Linkrural Net, Viet Nam

Small-scale fishers and women and men engaged in the local and regional value chains account for the vast majority of employment but have seen their revenues shrink as resource degradation engendered by overfishing pushes exploitation costs up and selectively threatens women with poverty. Women are estimated to make up half the work force and play important roles in different phases of the value chain, but their contributions tend to be underappreciated and under-paid. Efforts to implement the Voluntary Guidelines to ensure sustainable small-scale fisheries (SSF) in the context of food security and poverty eradication in the country, based explicitly on human rights, are being supported by the Small-Scale Fisheries Academy. The SSF Academy is a safe multi-actor platform for respectful dialogue, joint learning, co-creation of knowledge and innovation for the recovery, protection and sustainable use of marine and coastal resources and in support of prosperous artisanal fisheries.

Based on de Souza Santos’ knowledge ecology, the Academy promotes dialogue with and for women and men in SSF recognising their knowledges and experiences and fostering interaction with others who provide complementary perspectives through e.g. scientific information and policies.

The academy methodology applies a socio-ecological model inspired by social behavioural change communication approach supporting participants in a gradual and multi-level change process touching on individual, family, peer group and societal spheres. Learners became leaders who can strengthen the capacities of men and women in their communities for developing innovations and active participation in governance processes thus demarginalising their communities and thanks to greater collective action and advocacy.

Built on Paulo Freire’s view of dialogue and adult education, the academy’s active and inclusive learning methods combine visual thinking, graphic facilitation and meaningful dialogue allowing participatory leadership to emerge. The methods tested with some success in Senegal enable active participation independent of gender, generation or formal education levels of learners.

That is particularly important for including women on an equal footing. The starting point is to create the conditions for engagement by enticing learners to design what they consider the ingredients of a happy life and to enrich their drawings in dialogue with family and neighbours. In an interplay between individual and group work they are then invited to design a pathway towards such a happy life with an objective achievable within one year and to reflect and identify what could be quarterly intermediate steps. This reflection also leads to visualising obstacles and opportunities on the way and who could be helpers along the road. The method also proves its worth, for example, in addressing the otherwise taboo topic of gender relations. It allows to bring some of the difficulties into the open that prevent women from having a voice and realise their potential. It actually turned out during practice that some of the most notable advances in their individual economic results were realised by women. The approach thus enables emergence of new leadership competencies and stimulates others. Likewise, bringing in additional expertise not available in the community lays the foundation for more preparedness in relation to new challenges, such as climate change. Enrichment with distance learning support under pandemic conditions is currently being tested. We propose that such bottom-up capacity strengthening through inclusive adult education is a necessary complement for social justice and the successful implementation of more global policies as represented by the Sustainable Development Goals and the SSF Guidelines.

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