In order to create a new nation we have to begin with an education that liberates people. Only through knowing their past and their present, only through understanding and analyzing their reality, can people choose their future. Only in this process can people fulfill their human destiny as makers of history
and commit themselves to transforming that reality.
Fr. Fernando Cardenal,
Nicaragua Literacy Campaign
ONE DC (formerly Manna CDC) uses Popular Education techniques and values for leadership development and skills building. Popular Education is a values-changing process based on the ideals of equity and justice for change. It is inclusive and continuous, bringing people together in a safe and supportive space to discuss and analyze individual and community problems and their root causes. Finally, it helps such groups identify short and long-term actions they need to take to remedy identified problems.
ONE DC models its Popular Education process after the consciousness-raising work conducted by SNCC and other groups in such initiatives as the Mississippi Freedom Summer and the Citizenship Schools.
ONE DC Educational Approach and Framework
- Develop a capacity building process that honors people’s experiences and values
- Promote and support healthy/shared leadership and the development of a shared vision
- Create a safe action space that promotes genuine alliance building
- Move people to make political and ideological connections
Key Principles of Popular Education
(excerpted from Training for Transformation: A Handbook for Community Workers)
A. No education is ever neutral. Education is either designed to maintain the existing situation, imposing on people the values and culture of the dominant class, or education is designed to liberate people, helping them to become critical, creative, free, active and responsible members of society.
B. Relevance. People will act on issues on which they have strong feelings. There is a close link between emotion and motivation to act. All education and community development projects should start by identifying the issues which the local people speak about with excitement, hope, fear, anxiety or anger.
C. Problem posing. From the beginning all participants are recognized as thinking, creative people with the capacity for action. The aim of the facilitator is to help them identify the aspects of their lives which they wish to change, to identify the problems, find the root causes of these problems, and work out practical ways in which they can set about changing a situation. The whole of education and community development is seen as a common search for solutions to problems.
Problem-posing can be contrasted with the traditional banking approach to education based on the transmission of information from teacher to pupil.
D. Dialogue. The challenge to build a just, egalitarian society is very complex. No individual knows exactly how to do it. No one has all the answers, and no one is totally ignorant. Each person has different perceptions based on their own experience. The so-called educated have a lot to learn from the people since we have been trained mainly through the institutions of the dominant class. To discover valid solutions everyone needs to be both a learner and a teacher. Education must be a mutual process.
The role of the facilitator is to set a situation in which genuine dialogue can take place—a real learning community where each shares their experience, listens to, and learns from the other.
E. Reflection and Action (praxis). Most real learning and radical change takes place when a community experiences dissatisfaction with some aspect of their present life. A facilitator can provide a situation in which people can stop, reflect critically upon what they are doing, identify any new information or skills that they need, get this information and training, and then plan for action.
Often the first plan of action will solve some aspects of the problem, but not deal deeply enough with the root causes of the problem. By setting a regular cycle of reflection and action in which a group is constantly celebrating their successes, and analyzing critically the causes of mistakes and failures, they can become more and more capable of effectively transforming their daily life.
F. Radical Transformation of life in local communities and the whole society. This type of education aims to involve whole communities actively in transforming
- the quality of each person's life
- the environment
- the community
- the whole society
It is not an individualities academic exercise, but a dynamic process in which education and community development are totally interwoven. It recognizes that each person has a contribution to make in building the new society, and tries to help each person and each community become more and more capable of, and committed to, the service of the people and national transformation.
For more on Popular Education also visit our Resources & Links or Shaw Freedom Schools page.
Transformation is only valid if it is carried out with the people and not for them. Liberation is like childbirth, and a painful one. The person who emerges is a new person, no longer oppressor or oppressed, but a person in the process of achieving freedom... It is only the oppressed who, by freeing themselves, can free their oppressors.