Social Justice Experiential Education in Rural Fiji

Social Justice Experiential Education in Rural Fiji

Elizabeth Laura Yomantas
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5098-4.ch006
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This chapter examines how an experiential education (EE) program in rural Fiji provided rich experiences for social justice teaching and learning in the context of a teacher preparation program. This chapter discusses the instructor's lived experiences, positionality, and commitment to social justice work that propel a desire to create classrooms that are sites of transformation. The primary aspects of social justice teaching and learning discussed include the creation of spaces for critical consciousness to emerge and an embracement of pedagogies of love in the context of the EE program. This chapter concludes with the instructor's continued commitment embodying a social justice agenda in classroom spaces and beyond through a lifetime commitment to this work through hopeful, patiently impatient praxis.
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Definition of Social Justice Education

Social justice education is resistance work rooted in joy (Johnson, 2019), social imagination, (Greene, 1995; Giroux, 2010), and hope (Freire, 1994; SooHoo, 2018; Shenk, 2013; Birmingham, 2009) which is built upon the confluence of multiple voices and perspectives in pursuit of a better world. Social justice education is rooted in humanizing liberation work (Giroux, 2010); it is hopeful and visionary while also operating in concrete reality (Freire, 1972). These spaces open possibilities for a more socially just world (Giroux, 2017), and classrooms should function as places where these ideas can materialize and educators can attempt to “live part of their dreams within their educational space” (Freire & Macedo, 1987). Teachers can function as “agents of transformation” (Bigelow, 1990) through engaged pedagogy (hooks, 1994) and pedagogies of love (Freire, 1972; Darder, 2017) to provide spaces where critical consciousness (Freire, 1972) can emerge. Through intertwining engaged pedagogy and pedagogies of love, spaces of critical consciousness can be generated. These spaces are humanizing, democratic, visionary, and participatory.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Pedagogies of Love: Based on Freirean principles, pedagogies of love include liberatory teaching that is rooted in mutual humanization, radical love, and the belief that students are embodied, whole beings who are active participants in the process of knowledge making. Teachers who embrace pedagogies of love illuminate reality and consequently strive to transform society alongside their students. Love is seen as an act of courage that awakens our passion and capacity to dream, reimagine, and transform together ( Darder, 2017 ).

Engaged Pedagogy: Term coined by scholar bell hooks that is built upon being creative in the classroom and extends into becoming involved with students beyond the limitations of the learning environment. As hooks (1994) explained, engaged pedagogy involves journeying “with students as they progress in their lives beyond our classroom experience. In many ways, I continue to teach them, as they become more capable of teaching me. The important lesson is that we can learn together, the lesson that allows us to move together with and beyond the classroom, is one of mutual engagement” (p. 205).

iTaukei: Native or indigenous Fijian. The term iTaukei began being used selectively to replace the word Fijian in 2010 ( Eräsaari, 2015 ). The government mandated this change so that the term Fijian would include all people groups who live in Fiji.

Unfinishedness: A Freirean concept that asserts that human beings are in the continual process of becoming. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed , Freire (1972) stated, “I hold that my own unity and identity, in regard to others and the world, constitutes my essential and irrepeatable way of experiencing the world as a cultural, historical, and unfinished being in the world, simultaneously conscious of my unfinishedness… And here we have arrived at the point from which perhaps we have departed: the unfinishedness of our being. In fact, this unfinishedness is essential to our human condition. Whenever there is life, there is unfinishedness, though only among men and women it is possible to speak of an awareness of our unfinishedness” (pp. 51-52).

Critical Pedagogy: Giroux (2010) defined critical pedagogy as an “Educational movement guided by both passion and principle to help students develop a consciousness of freedom, recognize authoritarian tendencies, empower the imagination, connect knowledge to truth and power, and to learn to read both the word and the world as part of a broader struggle for agency, justice, and democracy” (p. 335).

Vanua: Loosely defined as community, is physical in nature and is also abstract – “a theoretical whole that embraces all people and their relationships with others and with the land, spirits, resources, and environment; the social spaces between peoples; and the spaces where we designate in our minds for certain positions or roles in society” ( Nabobo-Baba, 2006 , p. 77).

Banking Model of Education: Didactic, transactional model of education in which the all-knowing teacher deposits information into passive students who receive the information ( Freire, 1972 ).

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