Michael Samlowski

Paulo Freire

There is hardly an educator who has had more impact on the development of our field of action, adult education, than Paulo Freire. He is one of the most frequently quoted authorities for literacy methods, and countless literacy programmes have been fashioned after his concepts; or at least they claim they have.

At the same time he is probably one of the most frequently misunderstood educators, not least because he was never dogmatically fixed on one set of teachings, one program, one method or methodology or one philosophy. Instead, he had always placed his confidence in people and their capacity to think and act for themselves, given confidence in their own opportunities and space to develop them.

Naturally, Freire is better remembered and venerated in Latin America than elsewhere. His name is inseparably connected to popular education and the many emancipatory, liberation oriented hopes and movements that particularly abound on that continent. Many of DVV International’s partners still draw on his inspiration, and rightfully he had been chosen to be the first honorary president of Latin America’s Adult Education Association CEAAL, a position that he filled until his death.

We feel that 10 years after his death a homage is due to the life work of this outstanding personage whose thoughts and concepts have not lost any of their relevance. Therefore we present a selection of contributions of some authors whose professional, and in some cases also whose personal lives had much to do with Paulo Freire.

David Archer is the Director of Education for ActionAid International. Deeply impressed by Freire’s basic concepts, he is largely responsible for their further development into the REFLECT approach (Regenerating Freirian Literacy through Empowering Community Techniques) which is widely applied especially in African community education.

It is impossible to introduce Rosa María Torres in just a few lines. On the web page of her own Instituto Frenesis Ecuadorian her profile is summarized as “Educationist, linguist and social activist with extensive experience in teaching, research and technical advice nationally and internationally.” One of her many functions was that of Pedagogical Director of the National Literacy Campaign “Monsignor Leonidas Proaño” (1998-1990).

Lidia Turner, from Cuba, is member of the Academy of Science and President of the Association of Educators of Cuba. A deeply learned educationist, she has represented the interests of learning and popular education through research, science and through political work.

Alfonso Torres Carrillo is a Colombian sociologist and historian. He teaches at the National Pedagogical University of Colombia (Universidad Pedagógica Nacional de Colombia), specializing on theory, methods and techniques of social research. He is author of numerous books, chiefly dealing with the various expressions of popular education in his country.

After heaving served that association for many years as its president, CEAAL decided to make Carlos Núñez Hurtado their Honorary President for life. Originally an architect, he very soon devoted his life to popular education, at first working with farmers from the area of his native Guadalajara, Mexico, then through the foundation of IMDEC (Instituto Mexicano de Desarrollo Comunitario) which developed widely applied training tools and methods for popular educators throughout Latin America. He teaches at the Jesuit University of Guadalajara where he, very appropriately, occupies the chair “Paulo Freire”.

Benito Fernández, a Spaniard who travelled to Latin America, stayed there and turned into a Bolivian, has a lifetime of popular education on his back. For many years he worked at CENPROTAC, a Bolivian NGO, and served as Coordinator of the Andean Region of CEAAL before he took over the direction of DVV International’s programmes in Bolivia.

Carlos Calvo Múñoz is a renowned educational scientist from the Department of Education of the University of La Serena in Chile, widely studied abroad at Stanford University and at the University of Louvain. His formation was deeply impressed by Paulo Freire when he listened to his lectures during Freire’s exile in Chile.

Peter Mayo is a point in case demonstrating that Freire’s influence was by no means restricted to Latin America. Himself teaching adult education at the University of Malta, he has written widely on Paulo Freire and his contributions to dealing with present day political conflicts through education. One of his many duties and positions is to be Member of International Advisory Board of the Instituto Paulo Freire, São Paulo, Brazil.

K.O. Ojokheta is lecturer on distance education and Social Welfare Psychology of Adult Education at the Department of Adult Education of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and has done research on the effects of the application of Freirean methods in literacy trainings in his country.

Michael Samlowski