Thursday 31 March 2011

Course: “Educating Involves Commitment” (Educar Compromete), organised by Iqbal Masih School of Educators and Families

Last weekend, 26 and 27 March, the course Educating Involves Commitment – Educar Compromete, organised by Iqbal Masih School of Educators and Families, was held in Emmaus House in Torremocha de Jarama, Madrid.

Educators seem to be constantly busy complying with the “administration” requirements; the school curricula; the book, which we have not designed; what our subject planning states; what parents demand in the name of competitiveness; what appears to be interesting in order to enhance our curriculum… even though all this may not be a response to our students’ real needs.

In the course, we have analysed problems and aggressions young people are subject to; as well as the instances that decide what their freedom and happiness have to consist of; family breakdown in our society; young people’s loneliness; the school they do not feel identified with and which many of them end up failing at; their environment, actually perfectly designed by others; and their education virtual space, which brings discredit on any authority that does not match the nice and seductive neo-capitalist model. We are conscious there is an impending need to change the way we look at education and at ourselves as educators. Educating involves commitment, our integral commitment.

Neutral education does not exist! Being unaware of whom and what aims we are serving does not absolve us of our responsibility. The educators who do not side with the weakest inevitably take side with the powerful. Neutral education is not feasible, neither is a neutral school, nor is a neutral educator. It is essential to overcome our desperate indifference, our passive indignation, our critical conformism, our powerless heroic individualism.

An African proverb says: “it takes a village to educate a child.”  For Freire, the purpose of education is that teachers and learners should “learn to read reality so that they can write their own history”; this presupposes the ability to interpret the world critically and to act to change it; by taking action and reflecting, through dialogue, learners and teachers take control of their lives. The celebrated statement by Freire that “No one knows everything and no one knows nothing; no one educates anyone, no one educates himself alone, people educate each other, mediated by the world and history”  means it is this world of the others, of the impoverished, of the starving, of the destitute, of the exploited, of the enslaved, of the oppressed that demands we be a response. The right question to know what path to follow is not: what should I do to be a response?, but what should I be like to be a response?, and the answer is Vocation. Vocation is revolution.

Extract and translation of the article: “Educar Compromete,” written by Manuel Araus, Educator at Iqbal Masih School of Educators and Families.

Monday 28 March 2011

Child Slavery in the Uzbek Cotton Industry


Child slavery is an ongoing problem in Uzbekistan's cotton industry. Around 90 per cent of Uzbek cotton is harvested by hand with approximately half of all cotton picked by state-sponsored forced child labour. Human rights groups estimate that hundreds of thousands of children are involved each year.


Uzbekistan is the sixth largest producer of cotton in the world and the third biggest exporter, generating over US$1 billion annually through the export of around 850,000 tonnes of cotton every year. Cotton is currently enjoying a 200 year-high price and Uzbekistan's President Karimov recently announced that the profit from this year's cotton harvest is expected to increase by 35 per cent. Despite these profits, those ordered to pick the cotton remain impoverished.


Child Slavery

Every year there is new evidence of children forced to pick cotton during the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan. Human rights defenders, independent journalists and photographers monitoring the cotton harvest have confirmed the ongoing widespread mobilisation of forced child labour in the country.

Each September the cotton harvest begins. Many rural schools are closed down by government officials as children, some as young as nine, are forced to pick cotton by hand for up to three months in order to fill the shortfall in voluntary adult labour. They receive little, if any, pay.


  • to analyse how advertising exploits people and stereotypes women, converting them into objects of beauty and sexual pleasure, dehumanising them; and in doing so, contributing to violence.
  • to reflect on advertising manipulation, on how it affects our decisions, concepts of beauty, self-esteem, values and human relationships.
  • to raise awareness of the major role ads play in our acceptance of pornography as something natural.
  • to think of how to respond to this aggression.

Suggestion: The following class, we can talk about one woman who has struggled for freedom, justice, etc. - See Inspiring Women Label - and we can do some activity (reading-comprehension; listening; discourse analysis;…) with this material. Later, we can use questions to lead students to see that what we really admire in people is not their physical appearance but their moral integrity, their values and their principles.

I.                              Introduction

How do we look at ourselves?
The advertising industry exploits people, especially women as objects of beauty and sexual pleasure, used to sell products to both men and women (i.e. cars, beer, cosmetics -- you name it). It also affects the image we have of ourselves and others. In addition, objectification and trivialisation of sexuality contributes to violence.

II.                          About Advertising

Did you know the average Spanish child watches 30 hours of TV a week?Advertising is an industry that makes billions of Euros a year. So, it is a powerful educational force in our culture. The current emphasis on beauty and sexual pleasure is one of the clearest examples of the power of advertising to influence culture standards.

III.                       The "ideal" body

Did you know less than 5% of European women approximate the ideal stereotype of beauty?
You may think your body is not normal, not perfect. However, the "ideal" body is abnormal for women. Moreover, unobtainable!!!... but poor body image sells a lot of products, and so many corporations profit.

You can use the following video as a lead-in to the discussion

Questions for Students: 

Friday 25 March 2011


“There is a point at which the law becomes immoral and unethical. That point is reached when it becomes a cloak for the cowardice that dares not stand up against blatant violations of justice.” (Kurt Huber)


Today in Germany, one of the most popular heroes is Sophie Scholl. She is greatly admired for her courageous actions to defy the Nazi regime. She and other members of the White Rose, including her brother Hans, clandestinely published and distributed anti-Nazi leaflets.

Between the early summer of 1942 and February 1943, people in cities in the South of Germany and in Austria found leaflets in their mail boxes calling for protests against the Nazi regime. On February 19, 1943, Hans and Sophie took a great risk by placing copies of a sixth leaflet produced by the White Rose Group in the deserted halls of the University of Munich. After a janitor saw them, they were arrested by the Gestapo. Sophie, her brother Hans and Christoph Probst were soon tired and were executed by guillotine.

The film, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, reconstructs the last six days of her life. Based on actual trial transcripts and official police records, this film dramatizes her arrest, her interrogation, her imprisonment, her trial, and her execution.

Read more and see the film trailer at the end of the article

LETTER TO A TEACHER, by The School of Barbiana

Eight young Italian boys from the mountains outside Florence wrote this passionate and eloquent book. It took them a year. Simple and clearly, with some devastating statistical analysis of the Italian education system, they set out to show the ways in which attitudes towards class, behaviour, language and subject-matter militates against the poor. They describe too, the reforms they propose, and the methods they use in their own school - the School of Barbiana, started under the guidance of a parish priest: Father Lorenzo Milani and later run entirely by the children.

This remarkable book is about poor everywhere: their anger is the anger of every worker and peasant who sees middle-class children absorbed effortlessly into schools as teacher’s favourites.

Letter to a Teacher was a best seller in Italy and has been published subsequently in many languages. The School of Barbiana was awarded the prize of the Italian Physical Society, usually reserved for promising physicists, for the statistical achievement involved in the book.

About Don Lorenzo Milani and The School of Barbiana

Don Lorenzo Milani, founder of the school of Barbiana, was ordered to the Barbiana church in 1954. He went there from Calenzano, a town near Florence, where as a young priest he had started a night school for the working people. The school soon attracted those who found in its classes, tailored to their needs, the encouragement or inspiration to pursue their interests or go on with their studies.

Soon after being ordered to Barbiana, Lorenzo Milani felt the needs of the children of the farms scattered near by to be very critical. Most of the children had either failed their exams and left school or were bitterly discouraged with the way they were taught.

He gathered about ten boys, eleven to thirteen year olds, and gave them a full timetable of eight hours' work, six or seven days a week. Later, the group grew to twenty. The older children would devote a great deal of time to teaching or drilling the younger.

Many hours were given by all to the study and understanding of problems directly significant to their own lives, and, along these lines, eight students of the school wrote this Letter as a full-year project.

Extract from the book: Letter to a Teacher

History was the subject most damaged by this law. There are several different history surveys. I would like to get the figures on those most in use. In general they are not history at all. They are narrow-minded, one-sided little tales passed down to the peasants by the conqueror. Italy right in the centre of the world. The losers always bad, the winners all-good. There is talk only of kings, generals and stupid wars among nations. The sufferings and struggles of the workers are either ignored or stuck into a corner.

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Kurt Huber

“There is a point at which the law becomes immoral and unethical. That point is reached when it becomes a cloak for the cowardice that dares not stand up against
blatant violations of justice.”

                                                                   by Kurt Huber

Monday 21 March 2011

The Fight for Freedom, Manowar

click here to listen to the song

There's A Sound Heard Across The Land
It's Heard Across The Sea
You'll Only Hear It If You Listen With Your Heart
And One Day Hope To Be Free
To Hear The Sound Of Freedom Many Gave Their Lives
They Fought For You And Me
Those Memories Will Always Live Inside Us
And now It's Our Time To Be Free

Sunday 20 March 2011

African Migrants Report Torture, Rape on Way to Israel

Jerusalem--African migrants en route to Israel are subject to torture, rape and assault by traffickers in Egypt's Sinai desert, Israeli Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said, citing interviews it conducted with victims.

"From January to November 2010 we referred 165 women who travelled through Sinai to (Israeli) hospitals for abortions. We believe half of these women were sexually assaulted in Sinai," said Shahar Shoham, a case worker in PHR's open clinic in Jaffa.

PHR has been collecting testimony from migrants who say Bedouins whom they pay to smuggle them through Egypt's border with Israel hold them for days and sometimes weeks, demanding more cash and abusing them physically until the money is paid.

"I was beaten, electrocuted, tied up and thrown outside at night. We ate once in three days. There was one woman -- the traffickers raped her," Germai Omar, a 30-year-old Eritrean farmer, told Reuters in Tel Aviv.

Fueling Violence and Death in DRC

Locating Congo on a Map and Background

Begin a discussion with students about Congo by asking them questions, such as:

1.       Have you heard of the Congo?
2.      What have you heard about it?
3.      Does anyone know where it is located on the map?

Use a map to locate the DRC. Discuss the background of the Congo with your students.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC), formerly Zaire (and, before that, the Belgian Congo). Lying on the Equator, almost in the middle of the continent of Africa, the DROC has the third-largest population and the second-largest land area in sub-Saharan Africa. It includes the Congo River Basin, which encompasses an area of almost 400,000 square miles. The DRC has cobalt, copper, cadmium, petroleum, zinc, diamonds, manganese, tin, gold, silver, bauxite, iron ore, hydroelectric power, timber, coffee, palm oil, rubber, tea, manioc, bananas, corn, fruits, sugarcane, and much more. There are cement, mining, diamond, and light industries that process consumer products.

However, most of the population is poor. Life expectancy for males is 47 years and for females it is 51 years. Malaria, AIDS, and other diseases are common and keep the population from experiencing explosive growth. The infant mortality rate is 101.6 per 1,000, and there is one doctor for every 15,584 people. Most health care is concentrated in a few large cities. The needs of the people and the country have been neglected.

Watch Video, PP Presentation and Activitites below

Interject with discussion questions such as

The Butterfly Circus


Before watching the film

* Some people get a butterfly tatooed. Do you know what symbolic meaning it may have?

POSSIBLE ANSWER: The butterfly is a symbol of transformation or change, love and joy.
Watch the film

You can also find the film with subtitles in Spanish on YouTube if your students' level is not high enough to understand the film without them.

After watching the film

21 Guns, Green Day

 Do you know what's worth fighting for,

When it's not worth dying for?
Does it take your breath away
And you feel yourself suffocating?
Does the pain weigh out the pride?
And you look for a place to hide?
Did someone break your heart inside?
You're in ruins

One, 21 guns
Lay down your arms
Give up the fight
One, 21 guns
Throw up your arms into the sky,
You and I

Saturday 19 March 2011

Sophie Scholl - The Final Days (2005)

A dramatization of the final days of Sophie Scholl, one of the most famous members of the German World War II anti-Nazi resistance movement, The White Rose.

Director: Marc Rothemund

Writer: Fred Breinersdorfer

Stars: Julia Jentsch, Fabian Hinrichs and Gerald Alexander Held


Thursday 17 March 2011

Sumilao March

In 2007, 55 farmers fought for their claim to 144 hectares of land that was rightfully theirs. They marched all the way from Mindanao to Manila, in what would be known nationwide as the Sumilao March

Oscar Wilde

"True friends stab you in the front" 

Young Guineans study under the dim parking lot lights

Young Guineans study under the dim parking lot lights
at G'bessi Airport, Conakry, Guinea.

Saint Augustine

Charity is no substitute for justice withheld. 

Aung San Suu Kyi, international symbol of peaceful resistance

Aung San Suu Kyi, international symbol of peaceful resistance in the face of oppression. She spent most of the last 20 years in some form of detention because of  her efforts to bring democracy to military-ruled Burma.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited

"Only the vigilant can maintain their liberties, and only those who are constantly and intelligently on the spot can hope to govern themselves effectively by democratic procedures. A society, most of whose members spend a great deal of their time not on the spot, not here and now and in the calculable future, but somewhere else, in the irrelevant other worlds of sport and soap opera, of mythology and metaphysical fantasy, will find it hard to resist the encroachments of those who would manipulate and control it."
                                                                          by Aldous Huxley

In Afghan Kilns, a Cycle of Debt and Servitude

The New York Times
Published: March 15, 2011

WATA POOR, Afghanistan — The labour boss stood looking down at a man and his four sons squatting in the dirt, the boys mechanically rolling and slapping mud as they made line after line of dull gray bricks.
“See, there’s a sad story,” the boss, Gul Bacha, said as he pointed to the oldest son, Nick Muhammad, 18.  He said the young man had twice escaped to join the Afghan Army, but when his father needed another loan from Mr. Bacha, the boss forced him to bring his son back to work.
“His father came to me asking to borrow more money,” Mr. Bacha said. “I told him: ‘No. You must bring your son back here. Or else bring me the money you owe me and leave the house I have provided you.’ ”
The young Mr. Muhammad listened impassively to the tale of his unhappy return to the kiln in Nangarhar Province.

“I was 7 years old when I started this work,” he said later, when the boss was gone. “My family owed 10,000 rupees then. Today, we owe 150,000 rupees.”

Read more and see the video at the end of the article

The Butterfly Circus - 2009

The Butterfly Circus

At the height of the Great Depression, the showman of a renowned circus leads his troupe through the devastated American landscape, lifting the spirits of audiences along the way. During their travels they discover a man without limbs at a carnival sideshow. However, after an intriguing encounter with the showman he becomes driven to hope against everything he has ever believed.

Director: Joshua Weigel
Writers: Joshua Weigel, Rebekah Weigel
Stars: Eduardo Verástegui, Nick Vujicic and Doug Jones

Click here to see Teaching Resources using this film

Irena Sendler, Saving Children Was Her Mission

Irena Sendler

This remarkable Polish Catholic woman was a Social Worker who began helping the Jews of Poland as early as 1939 when she was only 29 years of age. She and others began creating false documentation to help Jewish families prior to joining the Zegota and being a part of the children's division. Irena and the others were putting their own life at risk to save others from the Hitler regime.


The Warsaw Ghetto During The Holocaust 

One of the largest ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe was located in Poland and was referred to as the Warsaw Ghetto. The Jews in Warsaw and its suburbs were ordered to be herded into the Ghetto like animals. The Ghetto was estimated to have a population of around 400,000 people or about 30% of the Warsaw population. It is reported that at the time the Ghetto was only about 2.4% of the size of Warsaw. There were two sections to the ghetto linked by a single footbridge. The "small ghetto" was inhabited by the richer Jews. The "large ghetto" where the less wealthy lived had much worse conditions. On November 16, 1940, the Nazis closed off the Ghetto from the outside world with a wall topped by barbed wire and armed guards.

Wednesday 16 March 2011



  1. Have a look at the clothes you are wearing and choose 2 garments, see where they are made.
  1. Now choose one of them.
       Think of the country it was made in.
       What do you know about this country?
       And, about the factory where your garment was made?
       Imagine what this factory can be like.
       Describe what you have imagined.

Have you seen in the video what you have imagined?


The wavelength gently grows,
Coercive notions re-evolve,
A universe is trapped inside a tear,
It resonates the core,
Creates unnatural laws,
Replaces love and happiness with fear

How much deception can you take?
How many lies will you create?
How much longer until you break?
You mind’s about to fall

Tuesday 15 March 2011

The Fight for Freedom

Song by Manowar

Before listening to the song, a lead-in activity can be done. We can talk about Freedom with our students.

Sometimes we may believe that freedom means doing whatever we want, instead of relating this word to freedom of choice, which is only possible when we know the truth. Then, freedom and choice are hand in hand.

In order to lead the students to reflect on these concepts, we can ask them to define freedom by thinking of those things that enslave them, their friends and other people in the whole world.

After doing the activity we can talk about what  first step we can take to set ourselves free from things that enslave us.

We can even ask students to think of a friend of theirs and how they can help him/her to set himself/herself free from something that enslaves him/her.

Moreover, we can also talk about things that enslave people in the world and what we can do to fight against this.

Sunday 13 March 2011

Criminal Immigration System

February 12, 2010

Segundo Encalada, an undocumented immigrant shipped to the United States by his parents at 17, found love with Elizabeth Drummond, a descendant of both the Mayflower pilgrims and an American Indian tribe. He became a father to her young son, and the couple married and had three more children together. But their domestic bliss was interrupted when Encalada was ordered back to Ecuador, while his wife was pregnant with their third daughter.

The couple was told that Encalada needed to obtain a visa from his birth country to return to the U.S., which would take a matter of months. Months turned into years. Still no visa. Encalada's stepson became depressed by the loss of his father figure and had to be hospitalized. Elizabeth lost her job and moved in with her father and sister. A new lawyer revealed that, actually, obtaining the visa wasn't even going to be enough -- they also needed to prove "extreme hardship," to bypass the 10-year penalty levied against someone who enters the country illegally before they can return. And then Encalada gave up on the struggle, committing suicide far away from home.

Friday 11 March 2011

Experts in Hunting the Poor

Is FRONTEX effective? To answer this question you need to go to the other end of the continent, to... the Canary Islands - at the other end of "Europe". It's on these Spanish islands just off the African coast the FRONTEX found a place to be active. It's about stopping mass migration of people from West Africa.

And here we come across informational chaos. Organizations supporting refugees estimate that with the arrival of FRONTEX, the rate of refugee deaths, among those who leave Africa by the sea, has grown - meaning by drowning, hunger and/or thirst. The statistics are under debate. While in 2006 the number of sea victims was estimated at about 6000, in 2007 with the wider actions of FRONTEX the numbers were worse.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Why are borders so necessary?

War and genocide, immigration controls, detention centres, dawn raids, surveillance and monitoring, racism and xenophobia, thousands of deaths as people attempt to cross borders. Many profit from this system of control. This happens both directly through the running of immigration prisons as well as by managed migration of the global labour market. Whilst capital flows freely, the movement of people is controlled and restricted.

Through efforts to increase power and amass wealth, imperialism has created a huge gulf between the comparatively rich ‘nations’ of the West and developing countries, and this parasitic relationship continues. Rich countries exploit the land, resources and people in the majority world in order to fuel profit driven economies and consumer societies. Of course there are vast inequalities within countries and this exploitation is driven by the interests of a minority which is increasingly transnational itself, with global elites cooperating to maintain their dominance. Borders are necessary to defend the wealthy and to maintain this inequality. ‘Nation states’ and protectionism are economically and politically desirable in this system, promoting the economy, managing the labour market and enforcing the borders, whilst others flee the very wars and poverty caused by this violent cycle or live exploited and precarious lives as 'illegals' or asylum seekers.

A holiday camp for tourists, a deportation camp for poor people

We start with some figures. About 2 million people live on the Canary Islands. On average, the islands handle about 9.5 million tourists per year. This substantial tourist industry contributes over 32% of the Islands’ GNP. The entire accommodation sector consists of roughly 172,000 hotel beds and roughly 242,000 overnight places other than hotels. These figures represent interesting multinational flows, links and connections, but seldom determine the media coverage.

What has come to determine the news are the following figures. In the last few years, between 20,000 and 30,000 boat people have come to the Canary Islands from various parts of Africa and increasingly from Asia.

Estimates differ, but a few thousand people are thought to have died in their attempt to reach the Spanish islands. And the Canaries are by no means an exception among touristically popular southern European shores in being increasingly a destination for travellers without papers these days. In the Mediterranean the Italian authorities intercept 20,000–30,000 people annually. The majority arrive in Sicily and on the island of Lampadusa. Others become stranded in Calabria, Puglia and Sardinia.

In recent years the shores of Greece have seen a growth in the number of travellers without papers as well.

Now we ask the following. On what grounds do we make a holiday camp for the tourists and a deportation camp for the boat people? Why do we erect a monument when tourists die—the monument constructed for the Dutch fatalities of the 1977 air disaster on Tenerife is a good example—and not for the African and Asian travellers without papers who died on their journeys? What legitimizes this different valuation of human lives?


The solution to migration is not higher walls but let impoverished countries develop

Walls of Shame

Solidarity is punished with prison.

JANADESH: The People's Verdict


Janadesh is the most important non-violent protest movement since Gandhi's times. Over 30 days, 25,000 men and women from the poorest areas of India walk along the highway the 350 km that separate the city of Gwalior and the Indian Parliament, in Delhi. Their goal: to start a widespread hunger strike to demand the fair redistribution of land. These warriors without weapons believe that their sacrifice, discipline and personal suffering are better tools than guns to bring about social change. They are aware of the dangers of exposing themselves to their opponents' violence without seeking an eye for an eye, but they are convinced that their actions are more worthwhile than hours of speeches. When faced with the marchers' courageous attitude, the Indian government, concerned about the country's image as an emerging economic force and worldwide center of mysticism, finds itself with no choice but to respond...

Wednesday 9 March 2011


This film is inspiring for children and shows them they have the power to change the world.

"The Children's March" tells the story of how the young people of Birmingham, Alabama, braved fire hoses and police dogs in 1963 and brought segregation to its knees. Their courage complements discussions about the ability of today's young people to work for positive social change.


  • THE FILM: Mighty Times: The Children's March (1963) (Find it in this blog under the label: NON-VIOLENT FIGHT or FILMS & DOCUMENTARIES)
  • THE QUESTIONNAIRE BELOW (See Teacher's Keys if necessary)
  • In other classes, they can also watch and talk about similar cases of non-violent figh at present, such as JANADESH MARCH TO DELHI in 2007; THE POPULAR NATIONAL CHILDREN'S MOVEMENT'S MARCH (Movimiento Nacional de los Chicos del Pueblo) in 2007 in Argentina;...


The following questions are in the same order as the video. Students can fill them out as they watch the video or use them as a discussion guide following the film. Make as many connections as possible to students' local communities and lives.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

I greet you all most cordially, women throughout the world!

I greet you all most cordially, women throughout the world!

... Yes, it is time to examine the past with courage, to assign responsibility where it is due in a review of the long history of humanity. Women have contributed to that history as much as men and, more often than not, they did so in much more difficult conditions. I think particularly of those women who loved culture and art, and devoted their lives to them in spite of the fact that they were frequently at a disadvantage from the start, excluded from equal educational opportunities, underestimated, ignored and not given credit for their intellectual contributions. Sadly, very little of women's achievements in history can be registered by the science of history. But even though time may have buried the documentary evidence of those achievements, their beneficent influence can be felt as a force which has shaped the lives of successive generations, right up to our own. To this great, immense feminine "tradition" humanity owes a debt which can never be repaid. Yet how many women have been and continue to be valued more for their physical appearance than for their skill, their professionalism, their intellectual abilities, their deep sensitivity; in a word, the very dignity of their being!

And what shall we say of the obstacles which in so many parts of the world still keep women from being fully integrated into social, political and economic life?