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OTRA∃DUCACION - Texts in English


 Rosa María Torres

Poetic and Dreamlike Paper Cut Artworks - Fubiz

This is a bilingual blog. Most texts are published in Spanish. Here is a compilation of texts written in English (alphabetical order).

10 false ideas on education in Finland
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2016/03/10-false-ideas-on-education-in-finland.html

 

12 Theses on Educational Change
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/12/12-theses-on-educational-change.html

1990-2015: Education for All Educación para Todos (compilation)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/08/1990-2015-education-for-all-educacion.html

1990-2030: Global education goals
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2015/09/1990-2030-global-education-goals-metas.html

25 Years of Education for All
http://educacion-para-todos.blogspot.com/2013/03/25-anos-de-educacion-para-todos-25.html

About 'good practice' in international co-operation in education
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/11/what-would-be-good-practice-in.html

Adult Literacy in Latin America and the Caribbean: Plans and Goals 1980-2015
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/05/adult-literacy-in-latin-amrica-and.html

Basic learning needs: Different frameworks
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/11/basic-learning-needs-different.html

Beautiful letters
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/07/lindas-letras-beautiful-letters.html


Child learning and adult learning revisited

http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/02/child-learning-and-adult-learning.html

Children of the Basarwa (Botswana)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/09/children-of-basarwa.html

Children's right to basic education
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/11/childrens-right-to-basic-education.html

Children's rights: A community learning experience in Senegal
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/01/children-rights-community-learning.html

Cuba and Finland
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/06/cuba-and-finland.html

Education First
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/09/educacion-primero-education-first.html


Ecuador: Good Bye to Community and Alternative Education
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/11/ecuador-good-bye-to-community-and.html

Education for adaptation?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/10/educacion-adaptarse-un-mundo-cambiante.html

Education for All 2000-2015 - How did Latin America and the Caribbean do?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2015/04/education-for-all-2000-2015-how-did.html 

Education in the Information Society
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/05/education-in-information-society.html

Escuela Nueva: An innovation within formal education (Colombia)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/11/escuela-nueva-innovation-within-formal.html

Farewells
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2015/06/despedidas-farewells.html


Finland Study Visit

http://otra-educacion.blogspot.fi/2015/10/visita-de-estudio-finlandia-finland-study-visit.html


Finland's education compared

http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/07/finlands-education-compared-la.html


Formal, non-formal and informal learning

http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2016/08/formal-non-formal-and-informal-learning_21.html


From literacy to lifelong learning: Trends, Issues and Challenges of Youth and Adult Education in Latin America and the Caribbean

http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/05/from-literacy-to-lifelong-learning-de.html

From school community to learning community
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2015/03/from-school-community-to-learning.html

Goal 4: Education - Sustainable Development Goals
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2015/09/on-goal-4-education-sustainable.html
- SDG: Translation issues
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2015/09/sdg-translation-issues-ods-problemas-de.html

Girls' education: Lessons from BRAC (Bangladesh)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2017/01/girls-education-lessons-from-brac.html


Giving up to a literate world?

http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/11/giving-up-to-literate-world.html

GLEACE: Letter to UNESCO on the Literacy Decade (2003-2012)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/01/letter-to-unesco-on-literacy-decade.html

Kazi, the Graceless
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/09/kazi-el-sin-gracia.html

Knowledge-based international aid: Do we want it? Do we need it?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/10/knowldedge-based-international-aid-do.html

Latin America over-satisfied with public education
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/06/latin-america-oversatisfied-with-public.html

Latin America: Six decades of education goals http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2016/09/latin-america-six-decades-of-education-goals.html

Lifelong Learning: moving beyond Education for All
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/02/lifelong-learning-moving-beyond.html

Lifelong Learning for the North, Primary Education for the South?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/11/lifelong-learning-for-north-primary.html

Lifelong Learning in the South: Critical Issues and Opportunities for Adult Education, Sida Studies 11, Stockholm, 2004
http://www.sida.se/English/publications/Publication_database/publications-by-year1/2004/november/lifelong-learning-in-the-south-critical-issues-and-opportunities-for-adult-education/ 
http://www.sida.se/contentassets/d60c67d64bf947b1b147419f7751a466/lifelong-learning-in-the-south-critical-issues-and-opportunities-for-adult-education_1614.pdf

Literacy and Lifelong Learning: The linkages
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/01/literacy-and-lifelong-learning-linkages.html

Literacy for All: A renewed vision
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/02/literacy-for-all-renewed-vision.html

Literacy for All: A United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012): Base Document for the Literacy Decade (2000)
http://www.slideshare.net/RosaMariaTorres2015/base-document-united-nations-literacy-decade-20032012


Military spending in education
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/03/military-spending-and-education-gasto.html

Now comes PISA for 'developing countries'
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/05/now-comes-pisa-for-developing-countries.html

On education in Finland
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/06/on-education-in-finland-sobre-la.html
 
On innovation and change in education
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/03/on-innovation-and-change-in-education.html

On Learning Anytime, Anywhere (WISE 2011)
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/11/on-learning-anytime-anywhere.html

One child, one teacher, one book and one pen
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2015/10/one-child-one-teacher-one-book-and-one-pen-one.html

One Decade of 'Education for All': The Challenge Ahead (IIEP-UNESCO Buenos Aires, 2000, PDF)
http://www.iipe-buenosaires.org.ar/publicaciones/one-decade-education-all-challenge-ahead
http://www.buenosaires.iipe.unesco.org/sites/default/files/education.pdf 

Open letter to school children
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/08/open-letter-to-school-children.html 

OTRA∃DUCACION: Lo más visitado ▸ Most visited
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2015/12/otraducacion-lo-mas-visitado-most.html

Public gym stations in Beijing and Quito
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2015/10/chinas-public-gym-stations-in-beijing-and-quito.html


Reaching the Unreached: Non-Formal Approaches and Universal Primary Education

http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/06/reaching-unreached-non-formal.html

"Rethinking education" and adult education

http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2016/08/rethinking-education-and-adult-education.html


Six 'Education for All' Goals

http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/01/six-education-for-all-goals-seis-metas.html

South Africa 1993: A moment with Mandela
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/12/south-africa-1993-moment-with-mandela.html

Stop PISA!
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/05/stop-pisa-paren-pisa.html

The 4 As as criteria to identify 'good practices' in education
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/10/4-as-as-criteria-to-identify-good.html 

The green, the blue, the red and the pink schools
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/10/green-blue-red-and-pink-schools.html

There is no "education for the 21st century"
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2010/10/there-is-no-education-for-21st-century.html

The million Paulo Freires
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2011/02/million-paulo-freires.html

The oldest and the youngest

http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-oldest-and-youngest-los-mas-viejos.html


The virtuous C (Keys for a renewed learning culture)

http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/01/la-virtuosa-c-virtuous-c.html

The World Economic Forum and education quality

http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-world-economic-forum-and.html

Transforming formal education from a lifelong learning perspective
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/10/transforming-formal-education-from.html

We are Latin America
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2012/05/somos-america-latina-we-are-latin.html

What did the MDGs achieve?  
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2015/10/what-did-millennium-development-goals-achieve.html


What Happened at the World Education Forum in Dakar (2000)?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2015/05/what-happened-at-world-education-forum.html

What is 'basic education'?
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2014/09/what-happened-to-expanded-vision-of.html

What is youth and adult education - today? http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2017/01/what-is-youth-and-adult-education-today.html

WISE Prize for Education Laureates: Bottom-up Innovators
http://otra-educacion.blogspot.com/2013/11/wise-prize-for-education-laureates.html



Las mejores ideas ocurren en posición horizontal

Rosa María Torres

Foto: Waldorf School of the Penninsula, Silicon Valley, Calif, USA
"Las buenas ideas no suelen aflorar mientras dormimos, pero sí cuando estamos en posición horizontal. Esto es al menos lo que revela un experimento realizado por varios psicólogos de la Universidad de Canberra, en Australia. Según el estudio, la postura horizontal es la más idónea para estimular la creatividad, azuzar el ingenio y resolver mentalmente los problemas. Lo hacemos peor sentados o de pie. Esto es así porque, al tumbarnos, el cuerpo entra en un estado deseable de relajación para que el cerebro trabaje al cien por cien. Además, en esta posición, le llega más combustible, es decir, sangre".  (¿Se piensa mejor tumbado o sentado?, en: Muy Interesante)

Tradicionalmente se ha considerado que la posición horizontal es la indicada para dormir y que la posición vertical - parada, pero sobre todo sentada - es la indicada para aprender, para leer, para escribir, para estudiar, para pensar, para trabajar. Sobre esta base se han organizado la arquitectura, la  infraestructura, el mobiliario, el currículo, la pedagogía y las tecnologías escolares, las aulas de clase, los auditorios, las estaciones de trabajo. No obstante, resulta que las ideas fluyen mejor si quien las piensa - despierto, en plena vigilia - está en posición horizontal; cuando el cuerpo se relaja, el cerebro funciona mejor.
Llevo muchos años sabiéndolo. Desde niña tengo junto a mi cama una libreta, lista para esa idea que saltará en algún momento y no me dejará en paz mientras no la ponga en blanco y negro. La predilección por el suelo, las alfombras, los colchones, las esteras, las almohadas y los almohadones, los sofás, los puff, los sillones reclinables, las hamacas, el césped, los columpios ... la arrastro también desde la infancia. Siempre leí y escribí en la cama, antes de dormir, y durante el día en posiciones y lugares que otros consideraban insólitos. En mi vida escolar, siendo estudiante destacada, prefería - como muchos adolescentes y jóvenes hoy - hacer las tareas tendida en la cama o en el piso antes que sobre el gran escritorio del estudio.

Una de las clases que más disfrutaba en el colegio era la clase semanal de religión; por alguna razón que ahora me gustaría entender mejor, el profesor (jesuíta) daba su clase afuera, en el jardín, sentado en una pequeña fuente de piedra y con nosotros alrededor, desparramados sobre el césped. Era una clase placentera. Sin pizarra, sin apuntes, con muchas preguntas y con murmullo de agua en el fondo.

Siempre he creído que la biblioteca tradicional - incluso si es moderna y bien dotada - es un lugar poco atractivo y hasta hostil para leer. No recuerdo cuándo fue la última vez que leí en una, sentada, rígida, en silencio. He buscado por donde voy librerías y bibliotecas que me sorprendan por su comodidad para la lectura, y he encontrado muy pocas.

Si llegara a organizar mi propia escuela o centro de formación docente, tendría sello propio, no solo en la pedagogía sino en el mobiliario y en la organización y uso de los espacios. 








Hace mucho que no trabajo en una compu con las rodillas dobladas y los pies contra el suelo. Si la primera laptop significó un salto cualitativo y una extraordinaria sensación de liberación, la llegada del wifi fue la gloria. Hoy puedo leer y escribir en cada rincón de mi casa, adentro y afuera, en pantallas y en papel. Y me pregunto cómo pude escribir tanto, y disfrutar tanto de la escritura, en posiciones tan anti-natura, anti-pensamiento, anti-cuerpo, anti-todo.

Algunas de las experiencias educativas más notables que he conocido - ricas y pobres - transcurren a ras del suelo. Las escuelas no-formales del BRAC en Bangladesh. El Taller de Lectura para Maestros en Olinda. La educación comunitaria bajo un árbol en una comunidad en Senegal. La biblioteca de la Escola da Vila en Sao Paulo. La escuelita itinerante en Vitoria. La escuela Pestalozzi que visité en Florencia y el taller de caligrafía que presencié en una plaza en China, sobre los que aún no escribo.

La reunión más extraordinaria en la que he participado fue en una isla privada, en el medio de un lago, en Canadá. Un lugar pensado para reuniones de Think Tanks, para pensar, conversar, debatir, construir, entre todos y en grupo pequeño. Una semana dedicada a pensar el presente e imaginar el futuro de la educación en el mundo, en un espacio amplio, luminoso, con vista al mar por todos los costados, con piso brillante y asientos de todos los tamaños, estilos y colores para que cada quien eligiera el suyo. Yo me instalé en un puff mullido y multiforme, con suficiente espacio para compartir entre dos. Todos descalzos o en medias, los zapatos a la entrada, como debe ser.

Otra reunión memorable tuvo lugar en un jacuzzi. Ocho personas - hombres y mujeres - planeando un seminario con las piernas chapoteando y el agua hasta el cuello. Recuerdo pocas reuniones tan creativas y productivas. como esa.



La investigación también dice que "al aire libre se aprende mejor". Nada como el aire libre - céspedes, huertos, veredas, calles, parques, playas, muelles, balcones, azoteas - para tenderse a pensar, a observar, a leer, a escribir, a sentir, a aprender.

Los ilustradores de libros infantiles se esmeran en mostrarnos los placeres de la lectura al aire libre, de día y de noche.

árboles ...

lunas,

hamacas...

y siempre algún animalito alrededor: pájaros, gatos, conejos, búhos ... 
Lecturimatges
¿Por qué los sistemas escolares insisten en asociar lectura con sillas, mesas, pupitres, estanterías, bibliotecas, laboratorios de computación? Los niños, la lectura y la imaginación se tientan con el suelo.








En la escuela Pestalozzi que visité en Florencia, los libros no se colocan en estanterías sino en canastas y la lectura no se hace en la biblioteca sino en espacios colectivos organizados afuera del aula, con canastas, cojines de colores y pequeñas alfombras, todo a ras del suelo.


Si los niños se sintieran libres para pedir, pedirían que los libros estuvieran al alcance y pudieran leerse con comodidad, sin pedir permisos, sin ceremonias.

Escuelas amantes de la naturaleza y del aprendizaje al aire libre nos muestran niños, adolescentes y jóvenes panza arriba o panza abajo, leyendo, escribiendo, dibujando, pintando, conversando ...

Investigaciones concluyen que el contacto con la naturaleza incrementa la inteligencia, la concentración y la creatividad, la capacidad para tomar decisiones y para lidiar con la frustración y la ansiedad.

Unidad Educativa del Milenio, Guaranda, Ecuador. Foto: Andes

¿Que niño o niña puede sentirse a gusto en un laboratorio de computación con mesas tan altas que los pies quedan colgando y hay que hacer un gran esfuerzo para usar los teclados y alcanzar a ver las pantallas?
Sillones y sofás se hicieron fama, en los últimos años, como estaciones televisivas. Pero desde siempre, desde mucho antes que apareciera la televisión, sillones y sofás han sido estaciones de lectura. Innumerables artistas, entre ellos muchos famosos, han retratado a hombres y mujeres leyendo, en ambientes y sillones de época.

Lectoras recatadas, primorosamente ataviadas ...
... y también poco ataviadas.

Hoy en día los sofás son buenos ya no solo para leer sino también para escribir. Escritores y teclados se acomodan a toda clase de superficies y de materiales.
Las hamacas constituyen un subconjunto muy especial entre los objetos funcionales y placenteros. Usadas por pobres y ricos, las hay desde muy simples hasta sofisticadísimas.








Lecturimatges
   Millones de pobres en el mundo duermen en hamacas, las usan de camas, de cunas, de corralitos infantiles, ignorando que éstas se han convertido en objetos fashion, recomendadas y codiciadas desde que la ciencia afirma que en una hamaca se duerme mucho mejor que en una cama. Lo raro es encontrarlas en espacios que no son ni de descanso ni de recreación.





Me preguntan por qué elegí la foto de una niña leyendo en una hamaca, para ilustrar la educación en Finlandia. Una hamaca en una escuela es, ciertamente, revolucionario. La anti-silla. La informalidad, la comodidad, la ausencia de tensión y de miedo. El cuerpo presente, tenido en cuenta. El sueño y la siesta como posibilidad en horario escolar.
En Curitiba, Brasil, el director de la Escola Estadual Brasílio Vicente de Castro (más de 2 mil alumnos), inspirado por unas vacaciones en la playa, decidió invertir en hamacas y en lectura al aire libre. “Teníamos un área ociosa de mil metros cuadrados. Fue ahí que pensé en colgar hamacas y crear un espacio agradable". Con un pequeño fondo de la Asociación de Padres, Madres y Funcionarios (APMF), compró 40 hamacas a 22 Reales cada una y creó un hamacario de lectura. ¡Genial!


Oficinas de Google en Sao Paulo. Foto: NatGeo
Saber que el mobiliario principal de las oficinas de Google en Sao Paulo son hamacas, fue una revelación. Desde entonces cuento el cuento a burócratas, académicos, empresarios, directores y profesores de escuelas.... Alguno se dejará inspirar y desformalizar. Quisiera ver esa sala de profesores donde los profesores pueden compartir, descansar y hasta tomarse una siesta como parte de su rutina diaria y de una estrategia deliberada de profesionalización y bienestar docente.


La cama: uno de los más grandes y más versátiles inventos de la humanidad, objeto de adoración y elogios en la literatura universal.

La cama más extraordinaria que conozco es la de Neruda en su casa de Isla Negra, en Chile, que él mismo diseñó. Ubicada en su dormitorio en el segundo piso, la cama fue colocada de modo tal que la ilumina el sol durante todo el día y tiene vista al acantilado y al mar sin necesidad de incorporarse. Neruda, como nadie, supo dar a la cama su sitial de lugar más importante de la casa.

La cama se ha convertido en aliada favorita en tiempos de dispositivos electrónicos, compartiendo honores con el baño. Según un informe de Nielsen (2011), en Estados Unidos la mayoría de niños, jóvenes y adultos que tienen tabletas, teléfonos inteligentes y lectores electrónicos prefieren usarlos en la cama. Es de suponer que preferencias similares se estén asentando en muchos otros países...

Tanto se invierte en mobiliario duro, incómodo y costoso en el hogar, en el sistema escolar, en el trabajo, en la academia, en la iglesia, en el gobierno. ¿Qué tal almohadones y hamacas en las salas de espera, en las aulas, en los centros de profesores, en las bibliotecas? ¿Clases y reuniones al aire libre? ¿Lectura y escritura horizontales en playas, hospitales, cárceles? ¿El suelo como superficie para jugar, estudiar, trabajar? ¿Siestas permitidas y programadas - en vez de penalizadas - en lugares de estudio y de trabajo? Son muchas las opciones, las variantes, las combinaciones. Yo cumplo aquí con informar y ofrecer ejemplos, incluidos algunos de mi propia experiencia personal.



Children's rights: A community learning experience in Senegal



Children's rights: A community learning experience in Senegal
(Visit to Thiès, Senegal, 18 November 1994)
by Rosa María Torres

Four o'clock. The expected day and time has arrived: by foot or by bus, chanting and singing, children and adults from a nearby rural village begin to stream into this village. Learners - children and adolescents - from the other village want to share what they have learnt in school around children's rights, through a special act they have prepared with the help of their facilitator. Children and adults are present, many of them students of either the adult or the adolescents programme, parents, the facilitators, and the members of the Village Management Committees of both villages. This is part of the non-formal basic education programme in national languages initiated in 1988 and implemented in Thiès by TOSTAN, a Senegalese NGO, with UNICEF and CIDA support.

The village comprises of barely a dozen homes. The houses are small and built with mud and straw, clustered together and separated from another cluster by wooden fences made out of branches. A few scattered trees and dusty narrow streets complete the scenario.

Most adults present are women. Many of them are mothers of the students, many are students or ex-students themselves of the adult education programme. Today, Friday, many men are at the mosque.

The entertainment has been organised in the open air, at the entrance of the village, next to a big baobab tree. A huge canvas hung between the tree and a fence provides a tent to protect against the sun. Children and adults sit on the floor, on mats or on small wooden seats. According to my count, over 200 people are gathered here. Facing them is a big map, a blackboard, a flipchart and a table.

Several signs with written texts in Wolof are to be seen all over the village: on the tree, on the wooden fences, on the houses. They are part of an effort to create a "literate environment", surrounding villagers with written texts. Streets have been baptised with such names as STREET OF KNOWLEDGE and STREET OF PEACE. The Boutique (a small village shop where mainly matches, oil, salt, are sold) -which, together with the school, is the only "modern" cement house in the village - displays on its facade a sign in Wolof that reads:

BOUTIQUE / CHOOSE WHAT YOU WANT

The facilitator is the master of ceremonies. He has made the drawings to illustrate children's rights, prepared his students, and promoted and organised this encounter. Everything is conducted in Wolof, one of Senegal's six national languages.

A series of songs introduce the act. The “alphabet song” seems to be one of the most popular ones: they tell me that the words remain the same, but each village puts it to its own melody, some of them with chorals. Most of the songs have been written by the students with the help of their facilitators. Thus, through music and rhythm, they welcome the visitors, praise the facilitator and acknowledge the organisations in charge of the education programme. A special song has been created on children's rights.

The facilitator announces the official start of the programme and explains it al length to the audience. Then he begins to unfold the flipchart.

Children of the world
The first picture is an introduction to the flipchart and presents children of different races and countries, wearing different costumes. The facilitator asks the students to describe what they see in the picture, and then asks them to point out differences. Children raise their hands and snap their fingers. They all want to speak. They give all sorts of answers: the hair, the shoes, the skin colour, the height, the clothes, the eyes. He then asks about their similarities and the children again answer: they are all people, they all have joys and problems, they all have to eat food. One small girl shyly states:

- "All the children have rights."

Everyone claps. Now the facilitator asks for a volunteer to come to the front, identify and choose a sheet of paper on which a text is written corresponding to the subject of the drawing, in this case, "All the children of the world have rights". A girl comes to the front: she studies the sheets displayed on the table, picks the right sheet, and then "reads" it aloud while turning around several times so that the phrase is visible to the entire audience. While "read" is here a verb between inverted commas - these young learners have started school only two months ago - since it is rather visually recognising words and phrases, this is actually the very first step to real reading, to reading with meaning and with fun! 

Adults are expectant, laugh and applaud, seem both proud and annoyed. Perplexed and uneasy at the beginning, they begin to feel increasingly at ease as the act unfolds.

The whole presentation on children's rights will follow this pattern: introduction of the picture; questions to children on what they see illustrated; discussion of the specific right suggested by the picture; interpretation of the right by the children through a short, often provocative, dramatisation or poem they have created; discussion of the play or poem; and identification and reading aloud of small texts written on sheets of paper and which correspond to the drawings.

The right to good nutrition
The picture shows millet, chicken, tomatoes, fish, papaya, monkey bread (a fruit from the baobab tree), and eggs. After an introductory discussion on the right to good nutrition, a child reads a poem about a selfish father who wants all the good morsels of food saved for himself, and is not concerned about his children's nutrition. A man in the audience, who has been listening to the story with evident anxiety, raises his hand and says, genuinely annoyed:

- "But I hide when I do it. How do you know?"

Everyone laughs. The facilitator then asks the children how they would answer the selfish father. Further discussion follows among the men. Volunteers come to the front and pick up sheets with colourful drawings of food and short phrases written in Wolof:

children and chicken
children and papaya
children and millet
children and good nutrition

The right to health
The illustration shows a mother immunising her young child. Following the questions and answers on children's right to health, a skit is staged with a husband and wife discussing the immunisation issue. The wife - a young volunteer who has borrowed a baby from a real mother in the audience - asks her husband for money in order vaccinate the child. He refuses and argues that he does not have the money. She blames him for spending the money in playing the lottery and buying himself tea. Finally, he agrees and she takes the baby to the vaccination post. Laughter and applause follow from the audience as the boy (playing the husband) dances off into the crowd. A lively discussion among the parents ensues in reaction to the husband's attitude. A girl volunteers to identify, pick up and read aloud the message "Children and health".

The right to a clean environment
The picture shows a woman with a broom, cleaning up her yard, and several garbage baskets aligned by the fence of the house. After discussion, the children present a skit in which they have been working on a village clean up and are discussing further actions to assure success. Then an older man comes along and throws down paper from the food he has been eating. When the children try to explain to him that he should not dirty the environment they are working to clean up, he becomes angry and says that children do not have the right to tell adults what to do. Discussion follows this skit among the children and the adults.

The facilitator asks:
- "What will happen in the future if everyone continues to pollute the environment?"

The children respond in unison:
- "Our whole country will be a garbage pile!".

The adults are delighted with this outburst.

The right to education
The drawings illustrate four types of learning ("houses of learning"): a woman teaching her child to cook (life learning), a blacksmith teaching a young apprentice (traditional job learning), a boy with a wooden slate on his knees (religious learning), and a boy and a girl with modern clothing and books under their arms (learning brought in from the outside, the French school system). The facilitator asks questions on each type of learning: what for? what methods? what differences?. A child comes forward and reads a poem on the importance of learning in national languages.

The right not to work too much
In this drawing, a girl is busy with many domestic chores. An eight-year-old girl comes to the front and reads a poem that speaks of a girl who does all the work in the house and has no time to play. She ends the poem with:

"At night, when I finally lie down to sleep,
I think and think and think about life.
My heart is full and I begin to cry
Because I do not know
When all this suffering will end."

Adults - and, particularly, mothers - seem uncomfortable and distressed.

[A parenthesis on children's responsibilities]
At this point, a sheet on RESPONSIBILITIES is inserted in the flipchart, apparently to counterbalance the many rights of children and the increasing anxiety of parents. There are no pictures on this paper, only written text. The facilitator asks the children to name their responsibilities and duties. Some of the answers are:
to be polite
to be respectful
to love oneself
to love one's country
to be obedient
to help out
to promote peace

The right to play
The illustration shows several children at play: a boy and a girl playing together; a girl on a swing; another girl dancing. The facilitator asks volunteers to show the audience certain traditional Senegalese games. Five girls come to the front and show two such games, combining song and rhythm.

The right to free expression
The drawing shows children talking to each other in a circle. A boy recites a poem that ends with "all children have good ideas, so let us speak up". Adults laugh nervously.

The right not to be exploited
The illustration shows a Marabout - traditional teacher in the (religious Koranic school) - with a child chained next to him, and another child begging near a bus full of people. The issue appears to be very sensitive. A man, visibly upset, asks for an explanation. The facilitator explains that there are different types of Marabouts, and that this one belongs to the type that do not really educate children under their care, but instead exploit them and live off them, forcing children to beg and to bring them money, or else they get punished and chained. Then, he tells his own story while he lived in a with a Marabout: he begged for alms, but only in his own neighbourhood and at that time begging was considered a formative experience, learning to be humble and to see how hard it is to be poor. Everyone is really attentive to his explanation. Many mothers nod their heads in agreement.

The right not to be punished
The drawing shows a father beating his son. Children comment that no one has the right to beat anyone (literally, in Wolof, "no one has the right to take the personality away from another"). Parents remain quiet.

One of the visitors intervenes and challenges the children with the question:
- "But how do you teach children if you do not punish them?."

A small, skinny girl immediately responds:
- "You take him or her to the back of the house or into a room, and there you talk to them and advise them."

There is sustained laughter. Many seem surprised at the young girl's quick, sharp and wise response.

In concluding the act we, the visitors, are introduced. The Presidents of both Village Management Committees address the audience. They congratulate and applaud the facilitator. A girl spontaneously reminds everyone to also congratulate and applaud the facilitator's trainer. 

In his brief address, one of the Presidents of the Committee says to the children:
- "If I were you, and had learnt what you have learnt in two months, I would be shouting and praising your teacher more than you do".

A father in the audience thanks children because "they have brought a lot of knowledge to the adults".

A mother says:  "It is the first time that three neighbouring communities have met together. And this is thanks to the education of both the children and the adults."

A young boy, full of enthusiasm, jumps into the centre of the stage and starts to dance. Someone grabs a huge plastic bowl and uses it as a drum.

And the big party begins. Girls and boys, children and adults: all are in the mood to dance. The same spot, different choreography. Brief, intense, frantic, individual dancing performances that commit the whole body, the mind, the entire person. While one dances, the others clap hands, and others - mainly women - play on improvised drums (plastic, metal, wood) that multiply very quickly. An educational act turns into a village
celebration. The critical issue of children's rights has brought children and adults closer, and two villages in contact for the first time.

We have witnessed a memorable occasion in the lives of these children and adults, and of these villages. Nothing here has been conventional. Education and rights, school and life, students and parents, parents and teachers, teachers and students, reading-writing and singing-dancing, flipcharts, poems and plays: they all seemingly interact and go together naturally. Conventional categories and classifications - formal/ non-formal/ informal education, school/out-of-school, or the distinction between children/ adolescents/ adults, or between children's education/ adult education, or even the term "community participation"- do not help to capture and explain what this is all about. 

There is definitely an innovative approach to literacy; not necessarily a new method but a renewed understanding and a fresh insight on the meaning and joy involved in teaching and learning to read and write. Literacy as something that involves both children and adults, as a creative undertaking on the part of both teachers and learners, as an intelligent act, as a communication challenge. Literacy not per se but to know about one's rights, to reflect upon and to discuss them. Literacy as a social and cultural capital to share with others, with other children, with other adults, with other villages. Children and adults learning together, becoming literate and aware together, in a genuine family and community learning process. 

No conventional terms or prefabricated educational jargon can describe what the villagers and ourselves, the visitors, experienced in those two hours in Thiès. This is why I have preferred to describe it, and to describe it as I saw it, to share it with you.

Related posts
Rosa María Torres, Children's right to basic education
Rosa María Torres, Open Letter to School Children  

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