In the first two weeks of July 2021, the 3CL organized a series of three 90-minute seminars/webinars on the theme of “Social Justice Education post-Covid 19.” The aim of these three webinars was to create a meaningful conversation among international scholars and activists in education with a focus on social justice education and its implications for education post-Covid 19 particularly with reference to the African Continent and the Middle East. The invited international participants all adhere to a robust understanding of social justice education in line with critical pedagogy, anti-oppressive and decolonial educational perspectives. The participants were invited to reflect on the topic at hand with particular reference to teaching on line which has become the norm in the last 16 months and most probably will continue to be so for a while.
All sessions were introduced by Dr. Alex Grech, the Director of the 3CL and moderated by Professor John P. Portelli, the Chair of the Board. The seminars were organized in cooperation with Commonwealth of Learning (COL).
The first webinar, Social Justice Education Reconsidered, engaged with the meaning of social justice, as a term that has unfortunately become an overused slogan, disconnected from its original and robust meaning. The three speakers were Professor George Dei, OISE, University of Toronto (originally from Ghana), Professor Awad Ibrahim, University of Ottawa (originally from Ethiopia), and Professor Carmel Borg, University of Malta. All contributors emphasized the importance of the role of education in the process of human liberation and the need to go beyond Western liberal understandings of social justice. For social justice to be meaningful and effective, it needs to criticize the present racist/sexist/homophobic/islamaphobic etc. contexts that continue to perpetuate colonial attitudes and actions. They stressed that it is crucial to start afresh. The COVID 19 pandemic has once again highlighted the present injustices and discrepancies that exist between the north and south. While the use of technology, including e-learning can help, they insisted that e-learning in itself does not eradicate the injustices. To achieve robust social justice aims, with the use of e-learning we also need to question “border thinking” and seriously ask how the inside is impacting the outside, as well as how colonial beliefs are still dominating the educational context both in terms of curricula and assessment through testing. Moreover, the speakers agreed that we need to identify a “a 4th way forward” focusing on intersectionality, a re-interpretation of basic education beyond the formalities of schooling, and the involvement of parents.
The second webinar focused on Social Justice and Educational Leadership. The 3 speakers were Professor Njoki Wane, OISE, University of Toronto (originally from Kenya), Professor Khalid Arar, University of Texas, USA (originally from Palestine) and Dr. Francois Mifsud, University of Malta. The contributors reflected on the role of those in educational leadership by considering understandings of leadership that are consistent with robust understandings of social justice. They emphasized the distinction between the notion of a leader that holds all the power, and leadership that attempts to involve an entire community or organization. Hence they insisted that the role of leadership is not to manage or control but to develop people by bringing about a certain awakening to the injustices and ways forward to deal with them. Meaningful and ethically appropriate leadership has to seriously take into account the different cultural contexts and the analysis of the encounters with others, as well as tackle issues of social justice such as exclusion, the reproduction of colonial norms, and the consequences of trauma. The contributors recommended a form of “anarchic leadership” that goes beyond the bureaucratic constraints and restrictions, which truly involves an element of open inquiry and wonder and transformation.
The third and final webinar focused on Social Justice and Activism in the Community and Academia. The four participants were Dr. Chizoba Imoka (Nigeria), Dr. Moyo Rainos Mutamba (Zimbabwe/Canada), Dr. Haneen Sameer Mgadlh (Al-Kasimi College, Israel/Palestine) and Dr. Maria Brown, University of Malta. All contributors reflected very deeply on their own contexts and gave many examples of activism both in the academia and beyond, including forms of activism they developed in response to the constraints created by COVID 19. They all stressed the importance that activism has to be consistent with a strong understanding of social justice, and to be aware of the contradictions that the neo-liberal world has created: contradictions, unnecessary tensions, reproduction of colonial norms and expectations, one size fits all, and the elimination of historical contexts. To counteract such injustices, the speakers insisted on the importance of holistic ways of moving forward that bring together different professions and communities together by looking at ways that go beyond the formalism of schooling constructed within the the physical constraints of walls, the importance of identities and their intersections, as well as the creation of a discourse and language that go beyond the politics of neoliberalism.
Each session concluded with an open discussion involving comments and questions from the audience.
The 3 webinars may be viewed from here.