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Expanding The Horizon

A book, written in Portuguese, was in the limelight in 1970. The title of the English translation of the work was ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’, authored by Brazilian Educator and Philosopher Paulo Reglus Neves Freire (September 19, 1921 – May 2, 1997). The year 2020 not only marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of this historical piece of work, but also marks the beginning of the Birth Centenary of Freire! This book was widely considered Revolutionary, as it launched an attack on the age-old concept of Pedagogy. Since ancient times, Education had been considered as Teachers’ gift to Students. In other words, the teacher imparts knowledge, while the students bow down, and fill the empty vessels of their minds with that piece of knowledge, without challenging the former! Even after the enlightenment of the 18th Century in Europe, philosophers – like John Locke – used to consider Human Minds as an Empty Slate

Freire had rejected this notion, saying that Education was not something to be donated or capitalised on. According to the leading Advocate of Critical Pedagogy, conversations and interactions between teachers and students help pupils gain knowledge. He described the conventional method of teaching as Banking System, while stressing on the need for Dialogical Method. Freire also recalled the memorable tradition of Socrates, insisting that Education should not mean capitalising on knowledge, but to learn how to hold each and every piece of this world through words or simply, the Emergence of Consciousness! It is to be noted that another book by Freire, ‘Literacy: Reading the Word and the World’, was published in 1987. In this book, he wrote the Cultural Actions on Freedom.

Paulo Freire

While working on his Pedagogical Model in 1970, Freire stressed that Favela or Slum was not just a Word, but a Code. Through conversations, the code helps one get ideas about slum, its components, and also about the life-styles of slum dwellers. As discussions go on with new words, the Curriculum is created! It is because words are not meaningless sets of letters, but signs of meaningful objects or feelings. Freire made all the people of a Brazilian village Literate in 1963 in just 50 days with the help of this particular method!

In spite of such an achievement, Freire had to spend his life in exile for more than 15 years since 1964, as per the order by the then Brazilian Dictator. Once, the noted Educator had said: “Jesus Christ sent me to the poor, and the poor people sent me to Marx.” In his 1976 publication ‘Education, the Practice of Freedom‘, Freire wrote: “Education means the development of Conscience. Only Education can help the poor people find out the cause of their deprivation and also a way out of it.

If it is assumed that conversations are going on over the word Brick… from Brick to Brickyard, from male and female labourers to their working conditions and wages… conversations will certainly touch all these issues, eventually! The discussion may also cover other related issues, such as unjust wages, exploitation of employees by their employers, deprivation of workers, et al. Naturally, the Rulers would not appreciate such an Education System. The State has always viewed Alternative Thinking with a fair amount of suspicion!

The English version of ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’, published by Penguin Publishers in 1972, prompted an overwhelming response, and new editions of this book were published every year until 1982. Freire also received invitations from various countries. Even, some European and American countries started following his Pedagogical Model in the late 1980’s. As Dialogue is the most important part of his Method of Education, both teachers and students get an opportunity to change their respective Thought Processes.

Freire had visited India while in exile, and influenced Jayant Pandurang Naik, an Indian Educator and a follower of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, with his thoughts. Some small organisations are working on the Model suggested by the Brazilian in different parts of India…

Considering the word Slum, one may find the dwelling places have been painted pink or blue, according to the shades of the colour of the polythene sheets used there, in children’s paintings on slums in eastern Indian city of Kolkata. The connotation of the word Slum or Room or House is very deep for the Elderly people! As far as Indian Culture is concerned, Home and Residence are not the same. Often, Home would refer to the Native Place or Family. Once, pronunciation of the word Home brought tears to the eyes of a homeless young lady. “I had a House… but, I can’t go back there,” mentioned she with sadness, as her profession was of a sex-worker.

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