LITERACY AND CONSCIENTIZATION IN PAULO FREIRE'S PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION
By Dr. -M.B.M. Avoseh
ABSTRACT Illiteracy and ignorance have been said to be major contributing factor to most of the problem of the Third world. While it may not be easy to establish a direct logical casual link, it is an incontrovertible fact that there is a close relationship between illiteracy, ignorance, political apathy and underdevelopment. In response to the challenge of illiteracy and underdevelopment latter-day educators have come up with different solution to the problem. All the solution pivot on education especially literacy education. Paulo Freire saw the solution to the problem as going beyond literacy for reading and witting sake to include the creation of critical consciousness. Conscientization and literacy are thus coincidental in Freire’s philosophy. Paulo Freire’s thought was influence largely by the socio-economic and political situations of his native Brazil. These same ugly and dehumanizing conditions are now available to a generous degree in Nigeria. Hence Freire’s education as “the practice of freedom” is very relevant to the Nigeria situation.
Most of the social, economic and political problems in the Third World e said to have their root in the intractable problem of illiteracy. The ugly level of illiteracy in Nigeria for instance is said to be mainly responsible for the problems of political apathy, ignorance, disease, partition, poverty, political instability and underdevelopment, among tiers. Most governments have come to realize the need for literacy as a y of tackling the problems rooted in illiteracy. The Nigeria government for instance, realizes the important role of literacy in individual and national development. Efforts have therefore been directed at mass literacy education at different levels of government. The directorate for Social Mobilization (MAMSER) among other agencies of government, has been created to address the situation. MAMSER'S three main programmes are: i) Mass Mobilization for self-reliance, social justice and economic recovery. ii) Political education, iii) Mass education. This effort is an acknowledgement of the need for literacy education » to be integrated with the creation of consciousness. This takes literacy - education beyond the level of the 3RS. A careful observation of the literacy programmes in Nigeria so far reveals that the slant has been towards reading, writing and arithmetic. UNESCO'S functional literacy was introduced to improve on the traditional literacy method. In spite of these efforts, the problem of illiteracy appears intractable. Besides, the social ills which literacy education was supposed to eradicate are still with us to a generous degree. This paper advances the argument that literacy education limited to the 3RS or even to UNESCO'S functional method has not been able to help Nigeria sufficiently well. Our thesis is that the methods above lack the consciousness creating elements which would empower the people to take charge of the adverse situations around them. Drawing exclusively from Freire's philosophy of education, the paper concludes that the need for the integration of literacy education with consciousness-arousal is paramount for the Nigerian situation.
LITERACY AND CONSCIENTIZATION
The need to empower the illiterate population through literacy v education and consciousness arousal becomes pronounced everyday. The reasons for this are not far fetched. In the first place illiterates in Nigeria are in the majority. According to the director of mass education under MAMSER, Alhaji Aji (1986:52) there has been an estimate of 56 million illiterates in Nigeria, and the figure may read 60 million by the year 2000. These are those who suffer most from the ills which are the unintended products of illiteracy. They are at a disadvantage in almost every aspect of the nations life. They are the direct victims of poverty, hunger, disease, ignorance, political apathy and violence. It is in this sense that illiterates are described as "undernourished" because they lack "the bread of the spirit" (Freire 1985:45). In the technical sense, illiteracy has gained prominence as a world problem. It is in this dehumanizing sense that UNESCO first recognised the concept. It is in this denotative sense that a connection has been
Thus the first task is to change the illiterate! consciousness.do so. This link plus the skill of literacy education empowers the illiterates to
. or between reflection and action.see the reality of the world around him. it would be difficult for technological advancement to take off. This resistance leads to a destruct of these structures after which man is in a position to create new structures. If the majority of the population belong to the club of illiterates then it would be difficult to accelerate^. employed the concept as a method of transformation. no one conscientizes anyone else. The larger society also suffers in the area of development. since literacy was not merely acquisition of the rudiments of the letters and numbers. ignorance.
Towards a Freirean Alternative
What makes Freire's literacy method unique and liberating is the element of conscientization. The first causes are social conditions which shape ma and his consciousness. disease. It takes place when illiterates come together in dialogue to discuss situations affecting their existence Conscientization is thus a dialectical process that relates critical reflection on past action to the continuing struggle for a better future This process of consciousness awareness cannot be carried out by proxy. Conscientization for Freire is a critical attempt to make man especially the marginalized illiterates . The socio-political areas would be affected by the people's apathy and ignorance. at the same time. The larger society also suffers in the area of development.The need for literacy education therefore becomes imperative. In this respect both the illiterate individual or a society "bedeviled" by mass illiteracy "not only suffers most from the debilitating effects of illiteracy but also receives the heaviest economic and social blows resulting from being illiterate (Alemayehu: 1988:289). Hence for Freire the object of literacy education is liberation through conscientization and its method is dialogue. they are not able to make a full contribution to the life and work of any nation. illiterates must be empowered beyond reading and writing to be able to tackle the problems. famine. hunger.established between mass illiteracy and poverty. Any attempt to eradicate the dehumanizing phenomenon of illiteracy must be drastic and liberative. unemployment and a host of domesticating problems could only be eliminated when people were given the weapons to . The first task in this analysis is to make the illiterates aware of the cause of their plight. conscientization is a process of growing and developing in awareness whose target is to know and transform reality. As we have observed. Again Aji (1988:52) puts this point succinctly: In a country such as ours. If the majority of the population belong to the club of illiterates then it would be difficult to accelerate*. Literacy education at this point is a liberational act that involves a radical resistance of dehumanizing and unjust social economic and political conditions. disease. The reference to conscientization takes literacy from the narrow "meal-ticket" and mechanistic confines to make it a liberating agent of transformation. what then is the relation ship between literacy and conscientization. it would be difficult for technological advancement to take off. The socio-political areas would be affected by the people's apathy and ignorance. It is in the sense of literacy as a liberating force that Paulo Freire's method of conscientization becomes relevant. political and economic situations around them. The "weapons" which Aji refers to in his speech are the empowering elements which incorporate consciousness arousal. that is. ignorance. It is in this sense that Fordham (1983:12) concluded that: The illiterates are at a clear disadvantage when they try to participate in either the world of work or the world where decisions are made. He also employed it to analyse literacy as a political project. Freire however. It is not only the illiterates who suffer from these ills imposed by illiteracy. It is therefore not sufficient to try to eradicate these problems by merely teaching people to read and write. The outcome of this relation is a literacy practice that is highly political. mass poverty. It is in respect of this that dialogue becomes a necessary condition for liberating literacy. and exploitation. Conscientization thus links the literacy process with the existential situations of the learners. Conscientization is dialectical between the* and practice. As a literacy process. It is in this respect that literacy limited to the 3Rs or even to UNESCO'S functional method becomes too week to tackle the problem. It is not only the illiterates who suffer from these ills imposed by illiteracy. Literacy limited to this mechanical and functional level will only be feeble attempts at a proper solution. oppression. In this respect. an attempt to make literacy education "the practice of freed It is in this sense that conscientization and literacy are described as coincidental. However the problems which illiteracy has introduced have grown larger than society. This attempt to change their consciousness is. "They are increasingly dependent on others and denied access to written cultures or to further education: above all. While considering the social problems in dialogue with other men the illiterate is led into a situation of intentional critical thinking which enables him according to Freire (1985:85) to undertake "a rational and rigorous critique" of the social.
(ed) Radical Approaches to Adult Education A Reader Routledge. to liberate themselves from socio-political and economic bondage. Thus literacy as the process of conscientization not only aims at eradicating illiteracy but. any literacy education that fails to conscientize the learners is almost a wasted effort. It is thus a process of blending critical reflection with positive and creative action. Illiterates too are beings capable of reflection not only action. 31 Alemayehu. Literacy at its present mechanistic and functional concerns is limited to the quantitative values which do not get to the roots of the problems. economic and political situations Thus economic. it situates the art of reading and writing in the broader social. Literacy educators especially in Nigeria. 31 Fordman. This makes literacy a process of going to the roots of the problems of society. economic and political concerns of man's life. at the same time empowers the learners to transform the ills which illiteracy has wrought on society. social and political empowerment emanate from the symmetrical relation between literacy education and conscientization in Freire's philosophy. Costa. Under the present setting. U. What comes out clearly from Frelre's use of conscientization as a literacy process is the need to involve the learners and their world in the learning process.(1988) "Nigeria has 56 million illiterates" in Adult Education and Development no. P. Another implication of the Freirean approach is the role of the educator becoming more demanding. R.
The havoc which illiteracy and its attendant 'problems have brought to society are glaring even beyond the scope mentioned in this paper.(1988) "Adult Education and the Third World: An African perspective" in Lovett. South Hadley Freire (1987) Literacy: Reading the word and the World. The Freirean approach which incorporates the element of consciousness arousal takes literacy education beyond the level of the 3Rs.
. need to take advantage of the relation between literacy education and conscientization as enunciated in Paulo Freire's philosophy of education.begin to take steps towards transforming the ugly elements of their existential situations. London.
Aji. Besides.(1987) quoted by Paulo in Adult Education and Development no. P. He is no longer just an educator but also a politician. The task of our literacy educators then is to equip the illiterates to make conscious efforts as an exploited social class. been observed that literacy as presently conceived and practiced cannot effectively tackle the problems. This takes literacy education beyond the level of reading and-writing the word to include reading and writing the world (Freire 1987: viii). Freire. It has however. T.(1985) The Politics of Education Begin & Garvey. The empowerment through literacy seeks to make learners understand their world and their present position in it and also to make them undertake efforts to change the adverse social. We have identified literacy as a major solution to the problems.(1983) Cooperating for Literacy a DSE Seminar report. P. He is a liberating educator whose task has been brilliantly summarised by Comrade Pinoda costa (1988:119): The basic task of the political educator is to teach adults to read and write their own reality by encouraging them to think critically about the world and to take their place in it with an increasing lucid awareness of their own changing 'reality. Literacy education limited to the quantitative mechanistic levels cannot aid illiterates to transform the lethal socio-economic and political world around them.