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The Sights and Voices of Dispossession: The Fight for the Land and the Emerging Culture of the MST (The Movement of the Landless Rural Workers of Brazil)


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MST, São Paulo
(Editor of the archive: Else R P Vieira. Translator: Bernard McGuirk. Reproduced with the permission of the MST, São Paulo.)


Interview: Agrarian Reform and Education


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"The process of agrarian reform begins a new history, a new culture, a culture born of a process of transforming the world. For this very reason, it implies social transformations for example, the overcoming of a profoundly paternalist and fatalist culture in which the peasant got lost as an almost totally excluded object.
Through his re-incorporation into the process of production, he acquires a social position he did not previously have, a history he did not have.
In truth, he discovers that fatalism no longer explains anything at all and that, having been able to transform the land, he is also capable of transforming history and culture. From out of that former fatalism, the peasant is reborn, inserted as a presence in history, no longer as an object, but as a subject of history. Now, this whole process involves the tasks of education. So, working in the sense of helping Brazilian men and women to exercise the right of standing erect on the ground, tilling the land, turning it around, making it produce more effectively, is our right and is our duty.
Education is one of the keys to open such doors. I never forgot that lovely phrase which I heard from an educator, from a peasant literacy worker from a group of Sem Terra in an enormous settlement in the state of Rio Grande do Sul where I once was, when he said: "by the strength of our work, through our struggle, we cut through the barbed wire of the latifundium and we entered it, but when we got there, we saw that there were other barbed wires, like that of our ignorance". "Then I understood even better, on that day", he said, "that the more innocent we are, the better we are for the world’s owners".
I find that it is a task that is not only political, not only ideological, but also pedagogical. Without this there can be no agrarian reform.
I send a message to young teachers:
Live for me, now that I cannot live myself, with children and with adults who, in their struggle, seek to be themselves, men and women."

Paulo Freire
Renowned Brazilian educator, the author of the celebrated Pedagogia do oprimido (Pedagogy of the Oppressed), amongst other contributions towards the development of a critical dimension in education and adult literacy, in which one teaches students to read the word to read the world, recorded this statement for presentation during the National Meeting of the Educator of Agrarian Reform (ENERA): With School, Land and Dignity, held at the University of Brasília (UnB), 28 to 31 July 1997. The thrust of his argument is that a new culture emerges from agrarian reform in that it enables man's reinsertion into and as a subject of history; the educational task in such a context is thus the exercise of citizenship and the cutting of the 'barbed wires' of ignorance. He concludes his statement sending a message to the young teachers at the Meeting: to live for him, now that his age no longer enables him to, the struggle with children and with adults who seek to exercise citizenship and dignity. Not long after the recording of this interview, at the age of 76, Professor Paulo Freire passed away, having left for the noteworthy Education Programme of the MST a lifetime legacy of dignification of the oppressed.


November 2002

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Project Director & Academic Editor: Else R P Vieira
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