PEOPLE’S UNIVERISITIES WITHOUT WALLS
Education for Sustainable and Humane Development
By Emerson Guild
Secretary for Education and Research
Central American Black Organization (CABO)
The Central American Black Organization (CABO) recognizes that despite the progress achieved in various countries of Latin America to promote the rights of people of African descent, great challenges remain. Inspired by the principles of the inherent dignity of human beings and of equality between all people enshrined in international instruments designed to promote and protect human rights, we must commit ourselves to combat the social, economic, and political exclusion and marginalization of people of African descent. Moreover, we need to identify the root causes and aggravating factors behind the discrimination of which we are the primary victims.
We must be encouraged to do things that stress the great contributions of people of African descent to the social, cultural, religious, political, and economic formation of States throughout Central America. Beyond this, we want to teach our culture and history to give value to these contributions by people of African descent in the creation of States in the region.
We want to preserve and disseminate the rich culture and history of Africa and of people of African descent who have contributed to the development of the countries of Latin America. This story of our African contribution is underscored in the national identity of the countries of Latin America because of how we are educated.
Our social, cultural, political and environmental needs must be highlighted in our re-education program to prevent prejudice, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance brought on by poverty. To this end, we need support for the introduction of programs in educational systems to promote the full development of our humanity, to reinforce all human rights, democratic values, and fundamental freedoms.
We must establish activities that encourage all people of African descent to uphold the fundamentals enshrined in international instruments such as “The Durban Resolutions” from the Durban conference held in 2002 and the “Treaty of Indigenous Peoples” signed in 2007.
We must teach the importance of collecting statistical data for the formulation and implementation of effective public policies to increase equal opportunity for people of African descent in relation to indigenous citizenship.
We must never stop condemning the violence and intolerance against people of African ancestry. We must recognize that people in so-called multicultural, so-called multiracial societies and in so-called democratic states are experiencing a multitude of difficulties because of disrespect and the neglect of equal rights and responsibilities for all.
We must confront the high levels of victimization among young people, children and women of African descent by establishing security policies based on the rights of indigenous citizens, centered on protecting persons through the adoption of violence prevention measures and creation of safe zones where drugs and crime will not be tolerated.
We must be committed to work together to combat inequality, poverty, and social exclusion through cooperation and the exchange of experiences. To this end, we reaffirm our determination to implement a vigorous social, economic, and political agenda in line with internationally agreed commitments.
We must recognize the need for information technology to facilitate the mainstreaming of the unique perspectives that directly confront racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in our realities.
We must know the fundamental differences between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs). The strengthening of community-based organizations staffed by volunteers is vital in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, in particular the way we advocate to help governments develop regulations and strategies, in taking measures and action against such forms of discrimination and intolerance.
CABO has branches in every Central American country (except El Salvador). CABO was founded in August 1995 in Dangriga, Belize. The primary purpose of our organization is to make visible the African presence in Central America. CABO fights against racial discrimination and seeks to build and promote solidarity amongst Afro-descendants in Central America.
There are approximately 20 million Afro-descendants in Central America. The majority of Afro-descendants in Central America live in a deplorable situation – one of poverty, exclusion and racial discrimination. We are affected seriously by illiteracy, unemployment, health, HIV/AIDS and forced displacement from our land and territory, with little or no participation in governmental power structures.
To date CABO has established programs and funding on behalf of the People of African Descent, based on voluntary contributions. In the new strategic plan for 2012-2015, CABO has identified a need to develop partnerships to finance projects and programs dedicated to preserving Afro-centric culture, memory, and traditions. The education projects and programs will be designed to foster social productivity. This includes the creation, circulation, protection, and dissemination of cultural goods, values and services of people of African descent, including the promotion of entrepreneurship.
We at CABO are planning this “re-education” with a view on the “Decade of People of African Descent in Latin America.” Our effort is to formally implement the re-education program in all member countries of CABO for the purpose of fostering cross-border complementary initiatives and promoting good practices in public policies.
Establishing the “People’s Universities without Walls” in Central American countries, as described below, is one of CABO’s key goals during the next decade to realize the empowerment of people of African descent.
Actions for change take many shapes. In our approach, we need to aim for holistic social, cultural, and economic change that embodies the spiritual awakening of our people and deep understanding of our collective history and culture.
As we encounter all the challenges of the past and present to develop a strategic plan to become a positive force through sustainable living in all aspects of our lives, we need to develop and advance our resources and manpower capabilities to achieve these goals.
In my country Belize, in the past fifty years there have been major disconnections in our spiritual, social, economic, and political realities that have been imposed upon us by colonial powers. In the past 15 years, our society has realized a new phenomenon- street gangs and killings! Joining a gang has become a means of economic survival for the portion of our society that has been marginalized through the denial of their social and economic needs.
Our collective, gradual acceptance of our inhumane conditions and our indifference to our cruel and unacceptable social, cultural, economic, and environmental situation has reached a point that we can no longer conceive that another way of living and conducting our business is possible. Our current condition and way of life has given us a new self-identity detached from our history, culture and traditions. We no longer know who we are!
Today’s media technology – Internet, TV, radio, newspapers, books, movies, music, etc. – projects the ideas of privileged citizens whose aim is creation of a Homogenous Global Culture with the stroke of a pen or the click of a mouse on a computer. It is in creation of this homogenous global culture, which at its core aims to desensitize us all from our innate sense of morality and humanity, that global control of the masses can be fully implemented! In this effort our traditional teachings and practices are being marginalized and our historical documents and artifacts are being removed or being destroyed. We are living in times when the enforcement of this homogenized global culture is reaching its final chapters. This is a cultural war, and we need to build our own purposeful institutions where we speak the truth and tell our story and preserve the knowledge and practices of our ancestors.
We cannot go about improving our economic and social conditions and liberating ourselves from imposed, unjust socio-economic circumstances if we have been desensitized and we have lost our moral direction. Therefore, before and above anything, we need to raise our individual and collective moral consciousness. We need to have a holistic approach in our actions for change which embodies both the spiritual awakening of our people (reaching a higher level of moral consciousness) and a deep understanding of our culture and history (having a sense of who we are). As we reflect on our struggle, we realize that it is a global struggle, so we must come together and become one force and focus on creating a Natural World Order that will impact our lives (an activity in harmony with nature) through our own holistic approach.
The powers that be have been controlling our lives for so long and have managed to create and enforce their own World Order through their global institutions and treaties and military might. But the world order that they have created no longer is practical; in fact, it is entering its final stage. The enforcement of their homogenous global culture through mass media and the digital world is the last straw in their effort to control and save their world order!
We have a big task ahead of us. To create our own Natural World Order that will serve humanity as a whole, we need to revitalize our Own Global Culture! To that end, we need to build our own educational institutions and create our own means of communication. That is the whole concept behind the idea of creating a People’s Universities Without Walls throughout Central America and the whole of Latin America. The curriculum for the People’s Universities Without Walls will be in direct relationship with the Natural World Order that we would like to create through a sustainable and humane, socio-economic plan.
These visionary ideas that seem impossible to achieve have to become reality. We have no other choice. Our survival and the survival of our planet depend on it. We need to change our mindset and understand that only through our collective efforts can we create our own natural order to preserve our humanity and life on this planet!
We need to create a world that everyone – that means every single human being on this planet – can practice his or her greatness and given right to a healthy, productive and enjoyable life. These visionary ideas can and shall become the reality of our lives if we only believe thatwe are not victims of our circumstances, but quite the contrary, we are the creators of our own reality!
The people who are currently in charge of our world affairs, which I remind you again are in the last phase of their World Empire, want us to believe that the World Order that they have created is the only one that is possible. So, I ask you, having millions of people all over the world in desperate and urgent need of food, clean water, shelter, and basic human needs – is this the best of all possible worlds? Are we to believe that we, who have been able to send gigantic satellites into the space and enormous spaceships to other planets, are still not capable of feeding ourselves and the entirety of our race? What is the problem here – a lack of resources, imagination, skills, labor, or technology? Or, is it a lack of will and determination? We hear all the time from the International NGOs and UN organizations about the Millennium Developmental Goals to eliminate world poverty, hunger, and diseases.
However, and with all due respect, despite all their scientific analysis, data gathering and strategic planning, they have not yet been able to solve any of our problems and eliminate anything. This is the case because they shy away from addressing our socio-economic global problems and ecological crisis in the context of a global political and economic order that only serves the interests of the corporate rulers and their political allies.
We the people need to solve our problems. We the people need to have a grassroots approach in addressing our problems. We the people need to understand that our future lies in our own hands.
If we need roads in our communities, we need to build them ourselves. If we don’t have skilled labor to build roads, then we have to find a way to train enough young people learn how to build roads. If we need a hospital in our neighborhood, then we need to build one, and if we need doctors, then we need to train a group of our young people to become doctors. There is no shortage of ideas and ways we can build our communities. The impossible is possible only if we decide to take charge of our own lives, our own communities.
We need to train our children to become farmers, fisherman, builders, teachers, doctors, engineers, healers, historians, artisans, craftsmen. We need to become self-sufficient in every aspect of our lives, write our own history and spread our own culture and create our own world – a world in which 3 billion people don’t have to live on less than $2.50 a day, where 1 billion children don’t have to live in extreme poverty, where 640 million people don’t have to live without adequate shelter, where 400 million people don’t have to live with no access to safe water, and where 270 million don’t have to live with no access to health services.
Our purpose has to be reflected in our pathways, crystallizing our new direction and commitment for empowerment. Education for sustainable and humane development will be directed to obtaining wisdom, knowledge, and skills needed to create just and humane societies with respect to our natural environment. Our teachings and trainings should encourage our children to become caring world citizens who exercise their rights and responsibilities locally, nationally and globally. We should no longer see our citizenship and stewardship within the boundaries of our national border.
In the People’s Universities Without Walls, we will address our developmental problems in the context of a Global Natural World Order. In our view, another world is possible, a world in which our developmental goals and strategies exist in harmony with the natural world order and its limited resources.
The word “university” is derived from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which roughly means “community of teachers and scholars,” and that is exactly what we are trying to create- a COMMUNITY of teachers and scholars. The People’s Universities Without Walls will have community-based educational trainings and programs. Our educational process will be a collective effort with a high degree of participation from everyone – local members of our communities and our international allies and partners.
Education for sustainable and humane development will serve us all. It will prepare us along with our children with sustainable solutions to the many present-day economic, environmental and social challenges we face, and in turn, we will become the change we all want to see.
Organize Community Planning Councils
“The community planning councils are basic units of planning where the people form, execute, control, and evaluate public policies,”
~Jorge Luís García Carneiro, head of the Ministry of Popular Participation and Social Development –Venezuela, 2006
In Venezuela, these councils are highly autonomous although they are often required to coordinate with municipal administrations and receive funds from various levels of government. Chávez, calls these councils “popular power”.
We need to organize similar Community Planning Councils in Belize and other parts of Central America.
Basic Structure of Community Planning Councils in Venezuela
Basically, Communal Councils are a group of elected persons from a self-defined residential neighborhood of about 150 to 400 families in urban areas, or closer to 20 families in rural areas, and potentially 10 in indigenous communities. All council members are people within the community elected by the citizens’ assembly for a period of 2 years. No person can occupy positions in more than one unit at time. All members within the defined communities above the age of 15 can participate in the citizens’ assemblies, and will have the power to elect and revoke community spokespeople to the communal council, as well as approve projects and development plans for the community. Quorum for the first election is 20% of the community. Other assemblies require 10% of the community to achieve the required quorum. Assembly elections are done directly and in secret. Other decisions are generally made by majority of raised hands.
I think we can basically adopt the similar structure for our Community Council with some moderation. It will be the job of the Community Planning Councils to assess – periodically and through appropriate methods- the socio-economic and environmental condition of their communities and come up with practical plans of action to go about creating sustainable & humane communities.
The areas for assessment as follows for our urban and rural development:
Transportation (Air, Land, Water)
Water and Sanitation
Information and Communication Technology
Biodiversity, Geodiversity and the Ecosystems.
Science & Technology:
Traditional & Modern
Education (Traditional & Modern Knowledge and Skills)
Health (Traditional and Modern Medicine for Physical and Mental wellbeing)
It is in our People’s Universities without Walls that we will create needed programs and projects to generate skilled and knowledgeable labor force needed for our projects. But we are not islands on our own. Some of these trainings will take place in our countries.-our allies, our partner countries.