In this second episode of The Morning After the Crisis, Dulcie Abrahams Altass, curator of programs at RAW Material Company, talks with militant interdisciplinary historian and long-time social and political organizer Sonia Vaz Borges about education being used as an act of civil resistance.
Mainstream practices of schooling have, over the last few months, been stripped down to their core. Classroom doors have stayed closed, playgrounds empty and silent, cantines devoid of the smells that mark the childhoods of so many. In a mass attempt to protect the children of the planet - these vulnerable beings who hold hands, pull hair and share crackers - the overarching structures of schools have made way for an anarchy of learning governed by the time and psychological capacities of caregivers. While the negative effects are numerous, and large numbers of young people are finding their wellbeing or safety compromised, let us not forget the inherent dangers of an education led by the powers that be and their world view. Today, new divisions are emerging in countries across the globe as we grapple with when and how students and their teachers should return to classrooms.
Away from official curricula however, groups throughout history advocating for social change have recognised the value of an alternate system of learning, such as the Black Panther’s Oakland Community School that opened in California in 1973. In West Africa, another west coast, schooling systems have largely been shaped by former colonial powers, despite a wealth of indigenous knowledge that merits transmission. Interdisciplinary researcher Sonia Vaz Borges has worked extensively on the Escola Piloto (pilot schools) and PAIGC schools - (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) - that were a central prong of the fight for independence in Guinea Bissau. A former Portugese colony, this small West African nation fought for its independence, along with the independence of the nearby Cape Verde islands, in a war that lasted from 1963 until 1974. Together, we will delve into the history of these schools, and discuss how in a better world we might imagine alternative systems of schooling the children of our communities. And, in a moment of flux such as the one in which we currently find ourselves, how might the way we educate be used as an act of civil resistance?