An experience of popular education in Buenos Aires

45 images Created 18 Sep 2019

‘Ñanderoga: an experience of popular education’ tells the story of a secondary school for adults created and managed by the grass-root organization Ñanderoga in the slum of Las Flores, province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. According to the Argentinian Observatory for Education, 60.7% of the population can’t end college in the due time and form; at the same time, it is almost impossible to get a formal job without a high school diploma. This problem deepens in contexts of economic crisis (such as the one in 2001-2002, or the one happening in 2019). In 2003, as a response to the lack of public policies addressing this issue, Argentinian social movements started to create self-managed high schools replicating the experience of the ‘fábricas recuperadas’ (recovered business and factories, which Naomi Klein made famous in the 2004 film The Take). The dream was to reach the forgotten sectors of society and offer them a high quality, cooperative education. Following the theories of the Brazilian activist and educator Paulo Freire*, these schools have been located in underserved neighborhoods and respond to the social and economical context of its students. Some of them work in close relation with the State, while some others are completely independant; what unifies the bachilleratos is the criticism over the national education system: old-fashioned, unethical, deaf to the needs of poor communities.
My project focus in the school created by Ñanderoga. I was a teacher there between 2014 and 2015 and I continued photographing the experience till last year. The word ñanderoga means ‘our house/home’ in guarani, one of the official languages of Paraguay (along with Spanish) and was chosen as the name of the school (and also of the social organization that manages it) due to the large Paraguayan population living in the neighborhood. There, the usual relationship between teacher and students is challenged by a participative structure in which assemblies are used to make the daily life decisions. All the teachers are volunteers and the students organize themselves to clean and repair the spaces whenever is needed. 2019 is the 10 year anniversary of the school: so far, more than 80 students have received their diplomas.

(*) “The term ‘popular education’ has acquired a variety of meanings throughout history. In both Spanish and Portuguese, the word ‘popular’ means ‘of the people.’1 The first use of the phrase referred to the extension of education to all citizens both rich and poor. In the 1970’s the term became linked to Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and community organizer.2 He worked directly with the poor, teaching them to read through a program he called ‘reading the word and reading the world.’3 The program participants not only became literate, but they learned to fight the system that was keeping them oppressed and impoverished.” (Source: http://sites.tufts.edu/foodeconomyfinalreport/files/2013/04/Popular-Education.pdf)
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