Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lessons from Friere, an excerpt from Pedagogy of the oppressed chapter 2


Pedagogy of the Oppressed - Chapter 2
by Paulo Freire - 1970
A careful analysis of the teacher-student relationship at any level, inside or outside the school, reveals its fundamentally narrative character. This relationship involves a narrating Subject (the teacher) and patient, listening objects (the students) .The contents, whether values or empirical dimensions of reality, tend in the process of being narrated to become lifeless and petrified. Education is suffering from narration sickness.
The teacher talks about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable. Or else he expounds on a topic completely alien to the existential experience of the students. His task is to "fill" the students with the contents of his narration-contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance. Words are emptied of their concreteness and become a hollow, alienated, and alienating verbosity.
The outstanding characteristic of this narrative education, then, is the sonority of words, not their transforming power. "Four times four is sixteen; the capital of Para is Belem." The student records, memorizes, and repeats these phrases without perceiving what four times four really means, or realizing the true significance of "capital" in the affirmation "the capital of Para is Belem," that is, what Belem means for Para and what Para means for Brazil.
Narration (with the teacher as narrator) leads the students to memorize mechanically the narrated content. Worse yet, it turns them into "containers," into "receptacles" to be "filled" by the teacher. The more completely he fills the receptacles, the better a teacher he is. The more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are.
Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiqu├ęs and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the "banking" concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is men themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, men cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry men pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.
In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry. The teacher presents himself to his students as their necessary opposite; by considering their ignorance absolute, he justifies his own existence. The students, alienated like the slave in the Hegelian dialectic, accept their ignorance as justifying the teacher's existence - but, unlike the slave, they never discover that they educate the teacher.
The raison d'etre of libertarian education, on the other hand, lies in its drive towards reconciliation. Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.
This solution is not (nor can it be) found in the banking concept. On the contrary, banking education maintains and even stimulates the contradiction through the following attitudes and practices, which mirror oppressive society as a whole:
(a) the teacher teaches and the students are taught;
(b) the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing;
(c) the teacher thinks and the students are thought about;
(d) the teacher talks and the students listen-meekly;
( e) the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined;
(f) the teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply;
(g) the teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher;
(h) the teacher chooses the program content, and the students (who were not consulted) adapt to it;
(i) the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his own professional authority, which he sets in opposition to the freedom of the students;
(j) the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects.
It is not surprising that the banking concept of education regards men as adaptable, manageable beings, The more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness would result from their intervention in the world. The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them.

The capability of banking education to minimize or annul the students' creative power and to stimulate their credulity serves the interests of the oppressors, who care neither to have the world revealed nor to see it transformed. The oppressors use their "humanitarianism" to preserve a profitable situation. Thus they react almost instinctively against any experiment in education which stimulates the critical faculties and is not content with a partial view of reality but always seeks out the ties which link one point to another and one problem to another.



Paulo Freire was a Brazilian educator and is an influential theorist of education.

Friday, July 18, 2008

City of Two Tales




Children in classroom (Government school)


"If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin".



Hyderabad today is an embodiment of well-heeled city in terms of its representation in mainstream media. The rapid growth phase since last decade has placed Hyderabad among the apical cities of India .Hyderabad as technological and knowledge hub has made its mark both nationally and internationally. With all these accomplishments, this historical city of Nawab's has also a very gloomy side to it. The city is partitioned on nomenclature basis into two major areas named as old city and new city. As the name is titled on the concept of time, old city part of it tells a story of exploitation and stands out in sharp contrast to the new city. While the information technology and biotechnology boom has brought people from different parts of the country, it is local residents of old city who are unable to get benefited from their native city's acclaimed potential.

It was in month of July when I got an opportunity to Visit rural areas of Hi-tech Hyderabad. The NGO at present I am working with Naandi Foundation endowed me with documenting the activities of the workshop, conducted in three different areas. Naandi Foundation works with Government of Andhra Pradesh to reach the children in public schools in order to ensure them learn. By virtuousness of its Ensuring Children Learn (ECL) Program, 64,250 government schoolchildren in 450 schools across 11 Mandals in Hyderabad are catered with basic amenities while pursuing their education. A 4 days workshop to serve this purpose was conducted by ECL Hyderabad in Charminar, Dayanandagar and Vijayanagar Colony. The primary intention of the program was to train the community activists (CA's) and making them understand the theory of engaging with the children. Charminar, being the celebrated place fascinated me more than the other two centers. I was thankfully allowed to exercise my choice for documenting processes at workshop conducted in Urdu ghar ( Home of urdu) near Asra Hospital, Charminar. The Streets surrounding Urdu Ghar were installed with numerous pan Shops and Tea stalls. The overwhelming response of people to tobacco consumption make these pan shops the places of eminent importance. The so-called exposed section of the locality conglomerate several times a day to discuss day to day to problems of the world on these pan shops. The street corners had turned brownish red as the pan and tobacco chewers regard these corners as enviable spots for spitting. This chaotic Milieu of Charminar gives an impression of alien in the wonderland for the people who know Hyderabad from Indian Newspapers. The distance of 5 km from new city to old city is an incommensurable transition that any one can rarely find in other parts of the world.
Old City of Hyderabad especially Charminar is inhabited by Muslim majority who widely have Urdu as medium of their instruction. In this inherent part of Hyderabad education is in lamentable shape. The state machinery is unable to deliver goods in old city of Hyderabad. The area has plethora of schools and genuine number of schoolchildren, despite all these positives, nothing is commendable. The unconcerned politics,bureaucratic structures and negligence of people has deeply contaminated primary education status in poverty stricken old city. While some criticize callous attitude of the government towards old city, while as others criticizing negligence of parental care, no one is ready to take the initiative to handle the system and face the ground realities. Numerous discourses used to happen in the form of seminars, conferences but all these intellectual discourses on changing the scenario have modicum or no effect on the practical grounds. In this sense the initiative taken by Naandi Foundation with the help of government is laudable. To meet the ground realities, Naandi Foundation with the help of Government of Andhra Pradesh has taken the initiative to meet these ground realities in order to bridge the gap.
My visit to three schools in highly backward areas near Charminar gave me an opportunity to personally engage with parents, children and school teachers. My first visit was to Tabela Donger (TD) Singh Govt. High School (Urdu Medium) in Hafez Babanagar established in 2002 by Govt. of Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Department. Naandi runs one of its many academic Support Centers (ASC's) in T.D School. The area is inhabited by a whopping population of approximately 1 lakh people. This prominent and colossal School has only able to attract 749 children, (443 girls,306 boys), having teacher to student ratio as 1:40 ( Teacher:student). The school from outside give a very good impression with its well constructed building. On the day of visit it was merely 50% of children present in the school. While speaking to Head master of the School M.A Jabar, for the reason of the low attendance.
Mr. Jabar remarks
“Attendance has remained a major problem in this school as the parents prefer their children to attend various ceremonies in homes rather than school.”
While Mr. Jabar believes that it is the negligence of the parents due to which the condition in the schools is so much deplorable. While this being a perspective of headmaster, I had no option than to meet some parents of the children whether they really accept the blame. My first talk was with Nazima Begum's ( 5th standard student) father, as in this part of the world you are always your fathers child than mothers. Nazima's father Mohd. Hussain was a mechanic, who's work is to repair motor bikes in the nearby area. Here I was clueless whether really to blame Hussain Saab, who takes it all to meet his both ends meal. How can be a mechanic, being himself overburdened with other family responsibilities with no knowledge of education held responsible for his child's studies. At least his child has got the chance to make it to 5th standard, the old father had never been able to get a chance to visit a school, else than some introduction to some deeny- taleem (religious knowledge). It is the whole structures that are to blamed for this distressing condition. Naandi has adopted Nanhi Kali program by the virtue of which it tracks the girls annually in order to ensure them at least to qualify 10 th class. In India out of 10 girls admitted in primary schools it is only 3 girls who make it to 10 th standard. One can imagine the fate of girls in this area where men are of paramount importance.
Now the School teachers are planning for door to door campaign to force parents to send their children to school. My visit to other schools was of similar experience with only slight increase in the intensity of problems faced by the children in poorly managed schools.
During the workshop that was conducted in Urdu Ghar, Community Activists (CA's) were said to solve worksheets for the children and identify complexities in the worksheets that are later provided to children. The Community Activists (CA's) with the guidance of Academic Resource Coordinators (ARC's) tried to demystify every complexness in the worksheets for the Children. In schools a specific focus is on low performance children, who are often alienated in the classroom thereby resulting their “drop out” at an early stage. Such children are identified during the base line assessment conducted in all schools where Academic Support Centers (ASC's) are being set up by Naandi Foundation. The majority of the children under this program are from subaltern families. The parents of most of the children are daily wage laborers for whom it becomes difficult to guide their children.
Hyderabad claimed to be the Cyber-City has huge task before it to be the among the vanguard cities of the India and off course of the world. The self centered vested interests need to be exposed and work for education of deprived sections of the children. Improvement of the Government schools in the city is needed to be done. Development is a contested term lets give it a meaning in the form of fighting for educational development in the city.