Education ‘is political’
In 1964, a military coup put an end to Freire’s literacy effort. He was imprisoned as a traitor for 70 days. After a brief exile in Bolivia, Freire worked in Chile for five years for the Christian Democratic Agrarian Reform Movement and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In 1967, Freire published his first book, Education as the Practice of Freedom. He followed it with his most famous book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, first published in Portuguese in 1968.
Based on the positive reception of his work, Freire was offered a visiting professorship at Harvard University in 1969. The next year, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was published in Spanish and English, vastly expanding its reach. Because of political feuds between Freire, a Christian socialist, and successive authoritarian military dictatorships, the book wasn’t published in Brazil until 1974, when General Ernesto Geisel became the dictator president beginning the process of a slow and controlled political liberalisation.
After a year in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, Freire moved to Geneva, Switzerland to work as a special education advisor to the World Council of Churches. During this time Freire acted as an advisor on education reform in former Portuguese colonies in Africa, particularly GuineaBissau and Mozambique.
In 1979, he was able to return to Brazil and moved back in 1980. Freire joined the Workers’ Party (PT) in the city of São Paulo and acted as a supervisor for its adult literacy project from 1980 to 1986. When the PT prevailed in the municipal elections in 1988, Freire was appointed Secretary of Education for São Paulo.
Freire died of heart failure on May 2, 1997 in São Paulo. (From Wikipedia) The book is a collection of chapters from some of Freire’s best known books, translated into Maltese.
Freire is a world-famous author marrying concern for adult literacy and social concern. He explains that all education is political and, where education says it is apolitical, it is being political just the same.
His theories were conditioned by the particular historical circumstances he lived through, in a South America hovering between army dictatorships and extreme left-wingers.
One would have thought that Malta is too distant from South America for Freire’s theories to make it to this country. But that is not so. His close links with Catholic theologians of the Liberation Theology school filtered through to the Maltese educational system, even to this day. People like Simon Mercieca have been recently complaining that our educational system is too much a mix of Marxism and Liberation Theology.
My main problem, however, is other: I was once here: I thought that it was important to translate books into Maltese (in my case, theological books). It didn’t work, despite all the hassle involved. Those who would be interested to read such books could well do so in the original. And meanwhile the cost of translating and publishing a translation are prohibitive.
In this book, the translators of the chapters are well-known names. Probably, for them, the task of translating the chapter expressed a commitment to an ideal. People like Albert Marshall, Joseph Agius, Charles Flores, Albert Callus, Rose Marie Caruana, and Victor Laiviera, among others.
There is also another issue: being a philosopher and a theorist of educational practice, Freire tends to use technical terms that cannot be translated into Maltese except by various words derived from Italian, which renders the chapters quite difficult to digest.
Nevertheless, one also understands why the book had to be in Maltese. Freire spoke of bringing education to the people, the illiterate and those without any formal education. And in Malta’s case this had to be only in Maltese.