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Popular Education for Young People in Bogotá Colombia

By Luis Enrique Buitrago Pinz.n, Director of The Popular Arts and Trades School and Nubia Estupi..n Soler Colombia National University.

The Jaime Garzón diploma course, developed in 2014/2015, is the work of many people and social organisations including the Popular Arts and Trades School, the German Opening Horizons programme, and the National University.

The goal was to develop a programme for young people who have been historically excluded from Bogotá city.

The objectives of the diploma course are: a) to understand the context and problems inherent in the youth condition, through critical readings about reality; b) to get the knowledge and skills required to promote young people’s rights; c) to develop the strategies needed for the promotion of human rights; d) to create a joyful and hopeful sense of life in young people, who are committed to building an ethical society based on human and social freedom.

The pedagogy is Popular Education – a model of pedagogy for the oppressed proposed by Paulo Freire to help disadvantaged subjects liberate themselves from their oppressors by analysing the conditions of their oppression and by developing their own initiatives to take transformative action.

The pedagogical team in charge of the development, execution, reflection and evaluation of the diploma course divided the programme into three sections: describing the conditions on the ground; analysis; and planning.

There are four subject areas.

The first is the ethics of freedom. Topics include conscientious objection, feminism, libertarian masculinities, intercultural dialogues, popular education and the theology of freedom.

The second area is on human rights and young people’s rights. Students learn about concepts such as dignity and about the fights of men and women workers in the 1920s and 1930s. They also study bio-socialism, alternative communication, nutritional sovereignty and children’s rights

The third subject area focuses on political economics including political doctrines.

Finally there are lessons on Colombian and Latin American history including: North American imperialism in Colombia and in Latin-America, Camilo Torres and Orland Fals Borda sociological and political thought, the politics of violence, the characterisation of conflict in Colombia, revolutionary projects and dictatorships in Latin-America, the fights of farmers, indigenous people and popular fights, the National Constituent Assembly, paramilitarism and historical memory.

To make sure that students are able to learn from reality, we use workshop facilitators who are experts, not just in academic terms, but also through the history of their own lives.

The diploma course is therefore based on an interchange of experience, allowing the students to learn first-hand about issues in our own country and our own region, and giving the young people an understanding of the importance of social organisation in the defense of human rights, and the role that popular education plays.

Inequality, exclusion, oppression and unjust conditions are features of our society – so there is a clear need for this kind of programme.

The young people who took part in the first diploma course had vitality, energy and creativity but their individual and collective identity is challenged by many realities. These include the stigmatization that young people face in many institutions, the militarisation of everyday life and the growing barriers to get access to basic services, such as education, health care programs, food, or employment.

On the other hand, the young people are indeed generating a wider reflection and analysis of these barriers and issues. They are creating a new consciousness about the structural issues of inequality.

The diploma course demonstrates the importance of Popular Education – reaffirming the value of this pedagogy when working with young people.

Young people, many of whom have always risen to political challenges, need powerful tools which allow them to understand the current situation and, at the same time, set out alternatives to what is a dehumanized system.

Popular Education promotes the idea that men and women are capable of critiquing and transforming their environment: that they are capable of denouncing individualisation, commercialisation and dehumanisation. It supports collectivity, solidarity, humanity and harmonization with nature.

Jaime Herando Garzón Forero (October 24, 1960 – August 13, 1999 in Bogotá) was a Colombian comedian, journalist, politician and peace activist. He was popular on Colombian TV during the 1990s for his political satire. In addition to his work on TV he had roles as a peace negotiator in the release of FARC guerrilla hostages. He was murdered in 1999 by right-wing paramilitary hitmen, with suspected support from members of the Colombian military and security services.

This article was published in the ACE Aotearoa Summer Newsletter 2018.