What does decolonizing education mean to young people in praxis?

Young people’s perspectives and recommendations on decolonizing and setting the path for more equality in education and education financing.

September 13, 2023 by Vicky Mogeni, Global Campaign for Education
6 minutes read
Members of the GCE Youth Action Group at the Youth and Students Caucus 2022. Credit: Global Campaign for Education
Members of the GCE Youth Action Group at the Youth and Students Caucus 2022.
Credit: Global Campaign for Education

“If I want to understand decolonization in simpler terms, the word is ‘power.’ Understanding and power in all its terms, race, caste, age, languages, geographical location, and sexual identity, what you represent, what influencing power you have in politics.”

Liam Kahenga, Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU)

GCE youth and students have gained and unpacked perspectives on decolonizing education financing and systems through various decolonial convenings and intergenerational spaces in the past three years.

There are 4 main recommendations to policymakers and education stakeholders as a result of these conversations:

  1. Recognition of and clear acknowledgment that colonization in education has taken place;
  2. Curriculum reform for more inclusive and indigenous education curricula;
  3. Allocation of funds to youth initiatives towards decolonizing education, in the form of grants and other financial support to youth organizations championing the fight for decolonized education financing; and
  4. A national review of education policies to create further recommendations on decolonizing education systems and education financing.

The legacy of colonization

Decolonizing education is not a new concept for young people who are living with the long-term consequences and legacies of colonization. However, deconstructing these legacies remains to be discussed within the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) and globally. What does decolonizing education mean? Theoretically and in praxis?

During the 2022 GCE youth caucus, the GCE youth and students expressed that the shared understanding across their constituency is that colonization was designed as an oppressive tool and finds itself within all fibers of how a society functions.

It is also understood that, despite generations having passed since the end of formal iterations of colonization, the legacies and impacts of this corrupt tool still exist today and are disproportionately more viscerally experienced by previously colonized peoples. It is a shared understanding across the movement that our decolonial agenda includes:

  • Consciousness building
  • Amplifying marginalized perspectives and voices
  • Embodying a shared decolonial praxis across our movement
  • Intentionally and inclusively supporting advocacy for the decolonization of our education systems.

Throughout the past few years, the GCE youth and students have convened around decolonizing education issues to deconstruct the complex and far-reaching concept further.

Decolonizing education financing from the perspective of youth and students

What do youth within the GCE movement think of decolonizing education financing, and what does this look like from the youth’s perspective? It remains vital to gain young people's perspective on decolonizing education, given that they are facing long-term effects in the form of neo-colonialism.

More broadly, deconstructing the effects of colonialism on education can provide a clearer picture of key approaches for mitigating its impact on both education and education financing systems globally.

Shared global perspectives and actions for decolonizing education financing

During GCE Youth Action Month 2022, youth and students gathered to determine their shared global perspectives on decolonizing education financing. Some of the key thoughts included: the need to be aware of the South American, Asian, and African experience; and the importance of multilateralism, which involves the participation of multiple parties within society, to achieve decolonizing education goals.

A recent statement from the Foro Dakar, Honduras Youth Action Group (YAG) representative, as part of the Global Action Week for Education (GAWE 2023) campaign, further elaborates on the notion of decolonization, noting that “when we mention decolonization, we must rethink international political action through neoliberal countries with their modernized Eurocentric policies shaped by globalization.” Read the full statement from Foro Dakar Honduras Youth

Mobilisation for Global Action Week for Education on Decolonizing Education Financing. Credit: Commonwealth Students' Association
Mobilization for Global Action Week for Education on Decolonizing Education Financing.
Commonwealth Students' Association

Tangible steps for decolonizing education in advocacy, youth engagement, and communications work

  1. Sharing knowledge through decolonial spaces
  2. There is a need to have an intergenerational sharing of knowledge. During GCE Youth Action Month 2022, youth expressed the need to explore knowledge and experiences across borders to generate a global context and a shared experience on decolonization.

    Different organizations could work on sharing decolonial works, publications, and lessons. This exchange would provide the opportunity to rethink and reshape various narratives around decolonizing education.

  1. Advocacy on increasing tax revenues in education
  2. In terms of decolonizing education financing, during a webinar hosted as part of Global Action Week for Education (GAWE) 2023, the GCE youth identified the need to improve the dedication of tax revenues towards education spending to ensure that funds are spent where they are needed to most to support equitable access to education.

    The Honduras YAG member advanced that we must deconstruct budgets driven by Western and Eurocentric policies that correspond to success models from other regions as they may not necessarily adapt to a region as unstable and changeable as Latin America (read the full think piece).

    During the webinar, Dr. Maria Ron Balsera also affirmed the need to increase tax revenue spent on education nationally. The aforementioned needs to be done with equity criteria, whereby children who need special education receive more funding for inclusive education.

  1. Capacity building on decolonizing education financing
  2. Habeeb Adewale, from Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative, noted during the GAWE webinar that the key action lesson civil society organizations should take is to improve capacity building for youth and students. Increased capacity building could boost young people’s knowledge to contribute towards decision-making processes on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.

    Additionally, Abideen Olusapo shared, “At Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative, we recognize the critical role of youth perspectives in the process of decolonizing education financing. We believe empowering young voices is crucial for dismantling systemic barriers and creating a more inclusive and equitable educational landscape. By actively engaging and amplifying youth perspectives, we aim to challenge traditional funding structures, advocate for fair resource allocation and promote educational opportunities that honor diverse cultures and knowledge systems. Together with other youth, we strive to co-create a decolonized education financing model that fosters transformative learning experiences and empowers future generations to shape a more just and inclusive society.”

“Decolonizing education financing promotes more inclusive, culturally responsive, and equitable educational practices that validate and incorporate indigenous knowledge, perspectives, and histories.”

Dr. Ester, Global Campaign for Education (GCE) Board Representative, 2023
  1. Increase advocacy spaces for youth and students globally
  2. As part of promoting youth advocacy efforts, more opportunities should be given for youth participation and inclusion in key global spaces such as the United Nations (UN) High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and boards with constituency representatives addressing the SDG 4 agenda.

    Youth action group members have also called for GCE and other multilateral institutions to advocate for supporting youth/students/young persons from the Global South to take up positions of power and decision-making in national and regional contexts and within the GCE movement to decolonize education and education financing.

    The youth calls to action also focus on ensuring public accountability. Prince Gideon from the CommonWealth Students Association underscored the need for public hearings where youth are involved. Public hearings are events where citizens are invited to scrutinize budget lines/the costs of government projects, especially those in the education sector, to ensure funding is allocated to where it is needed most.

Youth from the GCE YAG provided different perspectives on this. Some noted the need for decision-makers to engage both youth student leaders and organizations as representatives in education financing.

This partnership would allow for the youth occupying advocacy spaces to co-create and collaborate intergenerationally on addressing the needs of youth and students across the education spectrum.

There is a further need for governments, foundations, non-governmental organizations, and other education donors to champion the presence of students’ voices in their respective advocacy and policy-making spaces.

It is imperative that the international community and national governments take all of these youth recommendations and actions into account to begin dismantling the colonial education systems that have been in place and set the path for more equality in education and education financing.

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