BLOG: IS PAOLO FREIRE STILL RELEVANT? by Noémie Cely

At the present time, we cannot think anymore about poverty as an isolated problem. Poverty is not related to the absolute scarcity of goods but to an unequal distribution. At the global and at the national level. Indeed, a system is maintaining, in a plutocratic way, a power relationship between a small number of owners and the “marginalized majorities“. Marginalized because devoid of any incentives over their own lives. Devoid of any ability to do or to be, meaning of any ‘capability’, an idea on which Sen and Freire merge. Worse! These majorities are in a way owned by the wealthy people : they are dehumanized. This statement sounds “old fashioned“, ones would argue, “déjà vu“ others would shout, “Still relevant“ I will defend.

In his Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968), Paolo Freire presented a guide for oppressed people and oppressors ready to join them in their fight to free the whole world. In his view that I share, not only the oppressed people but also the oppressors need to be freed in order to restore the humanity of both of them. The freirian pedagogy requires a concientization of the oppressed people helped by some humanist educators in a very subtle way. It should be oriented to the praxis (dealing with the reality) and avoiding the trap of reproducing the same system. “Nobody frees anybody else; nobody is freed alone; people free themselves together”.

Utopian? His ideas have been implemented by the Worker’s Party in Brazil. The city of Porto Alegre gives a very successful example of it. Through the practice of participatory budgeting, meaning that the population has a voice over the management of the municipal budget. Porto Alegre with 1.3 Million inhabitants and a budget of $7 Billion has seen its service of water reach 98%, its children enrollment in school doubled and even the revenues growing because of the transparency of the model playing a motivational role to pay taxes. This happened in less than 10 years (from 1989 to 1996).

Still irrelevant today? It is up to you!