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Hope and courage to rethink a transformative pedagogy

Any educational or pedagogical action that wants to be generative must necessarily be based on hope

Pedagogues such as Paulo Freire and Warnock wanted to bring the theme of hope into pedagogy. Warnock says that of all the attributes he would like to see in his children or students, that of hope would be at the top of the list. He goes on to say that to lose hope is to lose the ability to want and desire anything. To lose, in fact, the will to live.

Hope is similar to the energy, curiosity, conviction that drives one to do things. According to the pedagogue, an education that leaves a child without hope is a failed education. Hence an invitation to all pedagogues to integrate hope into their teaching, because the essence of learning is to move forward to enrich both the individual and society. A hope anchored in realism, an optimism without illusions for the future.

This consideration becomes urgent in the face of today’s great challenges. A transformative approach to education is to be preferred. An approach that becomes a method for questioning the younger generation on current issues, the environmental crisis, wars and the growing tendency towards extremism and radicalism that generally affects Africa. It also involves the education of the emotions, because a crucial role of education should be to encourage engagement with the complexity of problems and the need to go beyond emotional responses to recognise the forces at play that influence processes of social change.

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The pedagogy of hope as advocated by Hicks International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning should therefore consist of four essential components.

  • Sharing: creating spaces where young people can share their feelings on issues without feeling criticised or mocked.
  • Listening: really listening to what young people want to say, so that they feel appropriately challenged and reassured that what they are sharing is valid and acceptable.
  • Understanding: the nature of the change or solution we want to bring to the problem, the origins of the problem, its impacts and consequences, the measures to be taken to minimise it.
  • Taking action: knowing what to do in the classroom, at home and in the community and who will provide ongoing support.

They are necessary to facilitate the transition from understanding the means to cope with difficult situations to reacting to promote positive paths and look to the future. The development of competences is therefore important to give the learner the means to deal with current problems. Competences that school just cannot provide completely. These are active citizenship and service learning skills, especially in regions where access to education is still threatened.

The Catholic Church has always been at the forefront of the education and training of young Africans

On 1 June, Pope Francis was to meet the delegation working to promote the education pact in Africa. In his address, the Pope exhorted the African episcopate with this phrase: ‘let us look to Africa with confidence‘. Francis’ invitation to the bishops is by no means casual. The first missionaries brought schools and since then the Church’s first mission has always been to heal ‘cultural poverty’.

In order to respond to the challenge faced by so many children and young people in Africa today in terms of access to the education system, the bishops presented the Pope with ten points as the conclusion of the Covenant, the ten points they intend to adopt in the draft African Educational Covenant.

  1. Choose in each educational institution of the Church a policy to have a percentage (between 5 and 10%) of children from a social and family background marked by poverty and need so that they can benefit from quality education. For this action, the bishops appeal to the solidarity of the faithful to provide the necessary financial assistance.
  2. Create school facilities especially in social contexts where economic support is very limited.
  3. Ensure the synodal management of Catholic schools with collaboration between lay people, women, priests and religious.
  4. Increase girls’ access to quality education.
  5. Provide Christian citizenship education to prepare citizens capable of engaging in a democratic society for the common good.
  6. The Catholic school must be a safe place where children and vulnerable persons are protected and respected in their dignity; protecting them from abuse of any kind.
  7. Develop and propose an educational project that emphasises the values and objectives of any educational institution based on Christian principles.
  8. Introduce and strengthen education for beauty and interiority.
  9. Train critical thinking to resist all forms of manipulation.
  10. Introduce ecological education and develop ecological practices.

With this list, we start the analysis from point 9. Training in critical thinking to deal with any form of manipulation. How can education today be a force for resistance to manipulation? Various types of manipulation can be listed here. But the most serious one that strikes us has to do with ideological manipulation. Terrorism and radicalism have become a serious form of manipulation of uneducated youth. One can easily trace a positive correlation between the lack of education and the radicalism of youth and children. Terrorists prefer ignorant children. And schools have become their main target of attack. Countless attacks in schools, in Niger, Burkina-Faso, Nigeria, Uganda, Chad, Cameroon, etc.

It is a growing threat that targets schools, students, parents, educators. We cannot imagine the damaging consequences for students, teachers and society as a whole. Regions that are already facing major challenges such as poverty, the effects of climate change, inadequate school infrastructure, lack of access to education, very low completion rates, low numbers of trained teachers, are seeing this problem of ideological manipulation to prevent the transmission of knowledge that is increasingly becoming a scourge in society added. This disease of lack of education will become the greatest form of poverty; a cultural poverty that will be much more dangerous than economic poverty, famine and tropical diseases.

In the face of all this, how can we rethink a pedagogy of hope?

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The pedagogy of hope remains the only remedy to transform the man of today. The man, the young person, the child, the object of education and who remains under the threat of manipulation. The school must always extend its sphere of influence. Rethinking community pedagogy means investing more in education. The project would be to promote a pedagogy of proximity in neighbourhoods, youth groups, parishes, etc. A chance to overcome the evil of extremism and always say ‘yes’ for inclusive education. The African population comprises 60 to 70 per cent young people, it is crucial to articulate sustainable solutions, to redouble efforts to ensure young people’s access to education.

Within this framework, political and security efforts, of course, are to be encouraged although they remain insufficient to end the various challenges. The efforts of security partners, however, will be necessary to ensure and implement strategies that promote educational security. It is therefore more than urgent to protect young people and children in schools today. If we do not act now, we will have lost most of our young people, and this will pose a threat to humanity in the future.

And here, people should be seen as part of the solution rather than part of the problem. For this, every possible means should be invented to bring out the best in everyone. Resilience is one of the characteristics of this situation.

A film written by the audience

One of the experiences that should really be encouraged is art. Art education can be an antidote to the growing extremism that affects young people and children and leads them to develop a different attitude to the tendency to radicalisation. This experience comes to us from the Kenyan film ‘Watatu‘. The film is about Islamist extremism, the radicalisation of a young graduate in Mombasa, Kenya. Director Nick Reding opens a question and writes his story with his audience. He did research with partially radicalised young people. So they wrote a story about a young man preparing to commit a murder, he staged the story as a play for an audience around Mombasa. He then asks them the question whether the story should inevitably end like this.

With his audience, Nick then asks questions and then asks them for alternatives. In a theatre-forum, these alternative proposals are played out with the three characters in the story. As a result, they reflect on how the family could have engaged differently with the young man. These interventions and the solutions proposed by the audience then became the second part of the film. All the dialogue at the end was written by the audience. It is an incredibly powerful way to get people to think and get active about their problems and find better solutions together. (Watatu Full Movie).

Every prospect for the future will lie in our ability to commit ourselves to redefining the entire educational process of the new generations, working together to study and experiment with a proposal for a ‘school of life’, integral and interconnected with the problems of society. Being anchored to the territory and developing local solutions.

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