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Facilitation Camp: Day 1

Connecting the personal and the political through popular education

About this day

This day will link our personal experiences as activists and learners with the political objectives of starting, designing, and implementing a political education group. We will learn about the roots and principles of popular education and The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Paulo Freire), and think through active learning strategies that enable us to establish a democratic and dialogic learning space.

Objectives for this day:

At the end of this day participants should have an understanding of critical pedagogy and popular education. They will reflect on their educational journeys as a way of informing what they believe are the characteristics of an effective facilitator and impactful learning experiences. Participants will  experience and reflect on how to start a group and to establish a healthy group dynamic. They will be introduced to key principles of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Lastly, they will establish a set of principles around the educational environment which works to hold the space together and employs some of the concepts which emerge from Freire and the learning environment. 

Day activity sessions:

This day comprises the following activities:

Activity 1:  Establishing a Group Dynamic and Democratic learning space (11h00 – 12:15)

Activity 2:  Exploring Popular & Political Education (12:15-13:00)

Activity 3:  Learning Experiences  (13:45 – 15:15)

Activity 4: Introducing Freire (15:30- 17:00)

Activity 5: Our Learning Charter (17:15-18:00)

Activity 1: Establishing a group dynamic and democratic learning space  

80 minutes

Aims:         To help us to:

  • start a group that is based on a dialogic approach (and what that might mean).
  • to establish the principles of the group (implicitly and explicitly)

About:  In the first part of this day we will experience and reflect on ways to create a safe space where participants can get to know each other and build a healthy group dynamic together that is dialogic: a term used by Paulo Freire to capture an approach to learning based on exchange as opposed to a one-way transfer of knowledge and learning. We will do this through praxis (another Freirean term) which is a combination of action and reflection: we will do then think through what we have done as a core part of the learning cycle. on different activities and approaches that aim to create a democratic and creative space which engages us socially, culturally, physically and mentally. 

These games and activities serve the purposes of: 

  • level the playing field, 
  • introduce the personal and the political, 
  • the use of stories and story-telling, 
  • ways to build knowledge together,
  • easing people into the learning environment to create and maintain a safe space;

Task: We will first do warm-up/ introduction activities together. Following these, divide into small groups (no more than four people) to analyse what these exercises do in the space. Please discuss the following:

  • how did each exercise make you feel?
  • What were the spatial arrangements (why was the room arranged this way? Why was it changed? What sort of groupings were used? Why these different sorts of groupings?
  • Why start a session with a group this way?
  • What would a facilitator need to think about when designing introduction/warm up activities?

We will report back in plenary as a closing consolidation of what was discussed.

We will do the exercises for 30-40 minutes. You have 20 minutes to discuss your responses together, followed by a 15-20 minute plenary consolidation.

  Worksheet 1 outlines examples of different activities and exercises to build a group dynamic and start to establish a democratic learning space. 

Activity 2: Exploring Popular & Political Education  

 40 minutes

Aims:         To help us to:

  • Understand the roots and principles of popular education
  • Reflect on what we believe political education is and where and how it might be useful.

Task: In small groups, collate responses to the following questions

  1. Read page 7 on popular education. Identify examples of where/when you have experienced this.
  2. Why do you attend Umthombo Wolwazi consistently? What do you gain?
  3. What is your definition of political education? Answer the question political education is….’. and write it up on the card provided.

You have 40 minutes to complete this task. We will report back later in the day (activity 4).

 Please refer to “A Popular Education Handbook by Rick Arnold and Bev Burke” pages 7-9, 13 and 28. 

Activity 3: Learning Experiences 

90 minutes

Aims:         To help us to:

  • To practice self-reflection and mapping of participants individual educational journey’s. 
  • To investigate what we  understand as education in order to discern whether our ideas of the learning space are traditional or critical 
  • To understand how our educational experiences might shape how we engage a learning space and what kind of facilitators or teachers we would then like to be.

About:        We are not blank canvases who lack prior experiences with education. Where, when, how and by whom we have had education in our past has an influence in what we do as facilitators and where we place power in the learning space. Through mapping our stories and being aware of ourselves and our own experiences we can shape our educational approach to involve more critical pedagogy and de-center traditional forms of education. After this group activity, you should be able to decide what a good learning experience is and what a bad learning experience is.

Task: As a group develop a metaphor for your collective educational journey.


  1. As a group of 6, discuss each person’s educational journey by answering the questions in Worksheet 3
  1. While group members share their answers the questions on the worksheet, one group member should record the answers to use in the metaphor report back in step 3. 
  1. As a group, create a metaphor for the educational journey describing the educational experiences in a presentation at plenary, be creative here. 
  1.  Report back to plenary. 
Please refer to Learning Experience: Definition from The Glossary of Education Reform by Great Schools Partnership 

Activity 4: Introducing Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

90 minutes

Aims:         To:

  • Introduce the basic principles outlined in Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed as the foundation for popular education
  • To introduce an understanding of critical pedagogy
  • To relate aspects of our own experiences to theory

About:        This section will involve reading on Pedagogy of the Oppressed. We will be introduced to the core principles of Freire and practice reading, reflecting, and interrogating readings about this theory.


  1. Different quotations about education are displayed around the space. Please walk around to read them all.  Once you have read them, we will ask you to choose one you are most drawn to and to stand by that particular quotation. We will briefly discuss why people are drawn to certain ones. We will return to these at the end of the session too.

We have 15 minutes for this section

  • We will now break into smaller groups for reading (approximately 5 people per group). Each group will read the 4 pages from Training for Transformation and either 4 pages from Pedagogy of the Oppressed or 5 pages from Paulo Freire and Popular Struggle in South Africa. Please practice reading with a highlighter, pen, and ruler if you prefer and find ways that work for you when reading. Please do not all read silently – rather read aloud together as a practice. Stop when you want to check words, ask questions, ask for clarification. 

We have 45 minutes to complete the readings.

  • Once you have done the readings your group is asked to do the following: If you were to do these readings with a group, what TWO questions would you ask to guide the discussion. Try to ask open-ended questions (these are questions that do not invite a yes or no answer). For example a question that starts with ‘What do you think Freire means when he says….’; 

We have 15 minutes to decide on these questions.

  • We will present our questions to each other, reflect on how they are posed and what sorts of answers they might draw out. To close, we will look again at the different quotations we started with: having gone through the day and this session, would you shift which one you are drawn to?
 Please refer to excerpts from Training for Transformation (pages 8-12)Chapter 2 of Pedagogy of the Oppressed (we will read pages 52-55) and the article Paulo Freire and Popular Struggle in South Africa (we will read pages 7-12). **Training for Transformation was how Freirean theory came to SA. The authors worked with Steve Biko in the 1970s to develop the training. This resulted in this first book published in 1984 and immediately banned in South Africa, but widely circulated in the Trade Union movement and other organisations connected to the UDF. The article Paulo Freire and Popular Struggle in South Africa outlines some of this history.   

Activity 5: Developing a learning charter

60 minutes 

Aims:         To help us to:

Collectively agree on behaviours, practices, and approaches to working together to ensure a safe and productive learning space.     

About:        This activity asks us to collectively build the foundations for how we work together. This will include mutually agreed upon commitments (such as punctuality), negotiations around aspects such as cell phone usage, and behaviours that we agree will help to make how we work as safe and constructive as possible.      

Task :         We will work with paper that represent individual bricks to create a sturdy foundation that supports our work together.

                  In Buzz groups, we will ask you to come up with ideas for all the things that we as a group need to do to make sure the everyone gets the most out of the camp.

                  We will write these ideas up on separate bricks to build our foundation. What happens when one of these bricks collapses? Which ones are the most important foundations that the other’s build on?

We have 60 minutes to complete this final exercise.

Evening Session – Discussion with veteran political educator, Dinga Sikwebu

Listen to the audio of the full discussion here:

Day Two: Facilitation >