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BaYaka education: From the forest to the ORA (Observer, Réflechir, Agir) classroom

Bombjaková, Daša; Lew-Levy, Sheina; Duda, Romain; Loubelo, Ghislain; Lewis, Jerome; (2020) BaYaka education: From the forest to the ORA (Observer, Réflechir, Agir) classroom. Hunter Gatherer Research , 6 (1-2) pp. 87-114. 10.3828/hgr.2023.3. Green open access

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Schooling is part of a global effort to help Indigenous peoples adapt to their changing social and ecological worlds and assert their human rights. There is ongoing discussion among anthropologists and educational researchers as to whether schooling meets these goals. Here, we examine the harms and benefits of ORA (Observer, Réflechir, Agir), a school system developed to educate BaYaka children from the northern Republic of the Congo. Many BaYaka have become more sedentary in recent years, spend more time working for their farmer neighbours or in towns, and have lost control of their traditional forest areas due to logging. ORA aims to provide a pre-schooling structure free from discrimination to 1) encourage the retention of Indigenous traditions, 2) reduce vulnerability and marginalisation of Indigenous populations, and 3) integrate children into the national public schooling system. Here, we contrast BaYaka pedagogy, social relationships, health education, experiences of discrimination, foraging activities, and cultural and spiritual beliefs with ORA. We argue that ORA’s curriculum structure and the cultural values transmitted in the classroom are at odds with BaYaka children’s forest learning and lifeways. Especially, while ORA explicitly seeks to provide BaYaka children with educational experiences free from discrimination from their farmer neighbours, a lack of BaYaka teachers and mother-tongue instruction may in fact disempower and disenfranchise BaYaka students. We end by discussing alternative approaches to education that can benefit BaYaka children, and outline areas for future research. A short ethnographic film on ORA curriculum and classroom life by Romain Duda is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aB8VH0txKZM.

Type: Article
Title: BaYaka education: From the forest to the ORA (Observer, Réflechir, Agir) classroom
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3828/hgr.2023.3
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3828/hgr.2023.3
Language: English
Additional information: This article was published open access under a CC BY licence: https://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/ due to the generous sponsorship of the LUP Open Access Author Fund.
Keywords: BaYaka, childhood, education, school, learning
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10177715
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