Doctoral studies are, by definition, a solitary activity: the research is your own. Even for doctoral student researchers in education who look at classrooms, school systems, and teacher groups, the often chaotic whirl of data collection is followed by a period of solitary analysis and write-up. In the past month, though, that isolation has become nationally mandated in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, and doctoral researchers must abandon even collective workspaces to self-isolate within their homes. A Nature study (Woolston, 2019) of 6,300 PGTs across the world found that a third have sought help for anxiety or depression, and the two most-cited worries are uncertainties about job prospects and work-life balance. COVID-19 adds another layer of uncertainty, and for now, work and (an isolated) life co-exist under the same roof.
Fourteen doctoral researchers from across the School of Education programmes in Bristol and Hong Kong met for a Zoom discussion organised by CIRE this past Friday. The conversation focused on the intersection of challenges – the virus, recent faculty strikes, and ongoing political tensions – that have shaped their academic work during this school year. We compared virus lockdown procedures: the two Hong Kong researchers present reported that more strict guidelines had just been issued, but until that point, restaurants and cafes had limited parties to four at a table and police checkpoints were in effect. Bristol researchers conveyed our situation in which everything except supermarkets and pharmacies were shut down, with one outdoor exercise period allowed per day. Or, as Zibah so poetically put it, “exercise or extra fries!”
There was a point of immediate agreement: the lockdown is not some form of vacation or writing retreat. The “uncertainty” already associated with the doctoral journey is further compounded by near-daily changes to national guidelines and virus infection rates; international doctoral researchers specially spoke of keeping an eye on the UK situation along with the unfolding situation in their home nations. Shimmi reported her worries about her home country, Maldives, which has managed to contain the virus but is beginning to suffer from the worldwide shutdown: the nation receives almost all food products from outside of the islands. India and other key trade partners have shut down shipping and transit in their own efforts to fight the spread. Further, with Ramadan coming in the next month, she wonders if the desire to participate in religious rites and gatherings will counteract isolation protocols. Together, the mental strain of uncertainty and worry for family members serve to impede the sort of “deep think” required for doctoral-level work.
Like workers across the world, researchers who are also parents must juggle their work with their childcare duties. Sian made it halfway through a self-introduction when her sweet, precocious toddler climbed into her lap and announced that she 1) has chickenpox, 2) just got a new kitchen, and 3) was attending (until this week) a new preschool: “Half a sentence and I get interrupted.” The other women with children in the group agreed; for Jill, being at home with her children and trying to keep them focused on their schoolwork means that “it’s difficult to even think about my thesis at the moment.” Cecile agreed that, even with the shift to online-based classes and meetings, “I can’t really do anything with kids in the house.” This was a common theme especially for parent-researchers who are the sole adult in flat.
A Bristol-based researcher, Martin, got home from fieldwork just in time. He had been working in Ethiopia, collecting data for his work on refugees and policy when the WHO issued the pandemic declaration and nations began to lockdown. A day after he booked flights to return home early, he got a flurry of emails from his funder telling him to return to the UK. “It was lucky because the night that I flew out, [Ethiopian Airlines] cancelled flights to thirty countries.” He was able to set up interviews with stakeholders and policymakers who could communicate online; for refugee participants, this was less of a possibility and thus the data collected will probably alter his outcomes. Other researchers worried about extensions for funding and thesis submission, and it is our hope that the university puts student well-being first and allows more time and funding for researchers trying to work through this difficult period.
With all of this uncertainty, there were bright spots. A discussion like this managed to connect Bristol and Hong Kong researchers, allowing for interaction that often feels impossible or complicated due to packed workday schedules and time differences. We agreed to continue weekly meetings during the crisis, to both discuss our frustrations and have conversation about anything besides COVID-19 and the thesis. But most importantly, the fourteen of us were able to remind each other to be gracious to ourselves and those around us and allow ourselves time to care for day-to-day needs rather than produce an opus of a thesis – for now.
Woolston, C. (2019). PhDs: The torturous truth. Nature, 575, 403-406. doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-03459-7
Grace Davies, our Masters student reflects on the International Development and Comparative Research in Education (IDCRE) student conference held in December.
Education and technology
The day started with two talks based on the idea of technology and how this will shape the future of education. Firstly, two students from our cohort Emma and Sherry gave a presentation on the application of education in remote areas of China. The talk focused on how mass migration from rural areas to cities in China has resulted in extremely low pupil numbers in rural schools and the benefit of utilizing technology to tackle this. The talk primarily focused on how internet platforms can be used for online and interactive lessons – which enable students in rural areas to access far more classes.
The second talk in the technology section of the conference was given by Professor Jun Zhao, a Chinese Professor in Northeastern University, Shenyang, China. We were very grateful to have an international perspective into the role of big data and the recent unprecedented changes to privacy as a result, which certainly holds many implications for education.
Our varied educational experiences
As a cohort we are extremely privileged that many of us are international students, this has enabled us to gather a wide range of perspectives on educational futures outside of the UK. To hone in on this theme two students volunteered to give presentations on their own home countries current education situation. Firstly, a presentation by Muassua David ‘The Structure of Educational Opportunities in Mozambique: Who fails, who succeeds?’ Muassua provided a brilliant and personalized overview of the history of education in Mozambique and the challenges faced within inequalities between states. Two key challenges for the future were highlighted; reducing inequality between states and lack of migration of graduates to rural communities. Secondly, Mawada Ahmed gave an enlightening talk on ‘Sudan’s Education Policy Reform: Revolution and New Agendas.’ The talk focused on the impact of the most recent revolution in Sudan and how that might shape Sudan’s educational future based on lessons learned and changes made in previous reforms. Mawada examined the Sustainable Development Goal 4 and how there is very little data for Sudan. Mawada also shared a video created by Unicef to encourage girls in education and acknowledged the lack of awareness it shows to Sudan’s history of gender equality and the wide range of achievement made by women.
Imagining educational futures
After a morning full of great discussion we broke off for lunch, where yet more discussion among peers could occur. During the lunch break we were able to look at posters created by masters and PhD students. After this break we were separated into two groups dependent on our interest. I joined some of my peers in a workshop on alternative education, where we discussed the pros and cons of different education styles. The workshop raised some key questions surrounding whether we should mix age groups of children and how the future of education might look if we were to adopt more alternative schooling methods. Alternatively, the other half of the conference attended a talk given by Arshia Jain, Shamiso Mahari, Driti Prasad from our IDCRE cohort titled ‘Pre-Colonial Education: Using the Past to Understand the Future.’ The talk focused on how we can learn from the past to understand the future of education and how there is value in learning from our experiences within education. The talk took two case studies one of the Khoi-San group in Africa, which was based on environmental education, and the gurukul system in India based on community learning and how we could learn from parts of these experiences.
Decolonizing the education system
The conference now gathered together for a discussion panel from three of our visiting speakers; with Dr Foluke Adebise, Professor Leon Tikly and Aisha Thomas, chaired by our fellow student Ugbaad Aidid. The panel focused on how we can decolonize the curriculum. The discussion was extremely insightful and opened many avenues for debate and mixed perspectives from our three guest speakers and the conference audience. One key point raised is the emphasis on cultural capital that needs to be made within the curriculum and how this can sometimes become a tick box exercise. It was unanimously agreed among the panel that multicultural education is more important than this and should become a part of everyday dialogue within schools. The role of cultural capital in creating hierarchical culture was also acknowledged and how some cultural backgrounds within education are seen as more valuable.
This brings us to the keynote speaker, Professor Carol A. Taylor, whose presentation was titled; “Using New Material Feminism: Rethinking what Matters in Higher Education.” The talk focuses on “the challenges of new material feminism and the possibilities it opens for doing higher education research differently.” (C A. Taylor,2019). We were extremely grateful to have Professor Taylor share her expertise with us and she gave an enlightening talk on her concept of ‘edu-crafting’ (Taylor, 2016, 2018) and the role of feminism in mixed methodologies. Taylor also illuminated on classroom practices and how they perpetuate gender roles and our position as educators to tackle this. The talk ended with the question of how we could incorporate feminism into our own research practice and work whether that be in classrooms or within policy. In terms of the future of education what was apparent from this talk is the need to ask more questions regarding gendered notions within education practice and research.
Alternative education models
The final talk of the day came all the way from Canada with the second of our international speakers Matt Hern who discussed youth empowerment in alternative education and how alternative education can be used as a method to tackle inequality. This presentation linked in well with the alternative education workshop and allowed more conversation to develop around a differing models of educational futures and the increasing need for more schooling options to meet the needs of today’s society. Hern ended his talk with the poignant question: “What would an institution look like if students felt that what they thought was important?” Something I felt left us all with something to consider in terms of our own future in education and working within this sector.
The day was a huge success and enabled us to reflect upon our place within education and how education might look in years to come. Hosting this conference provided us with ample opportunity for collaboration and the day really showcased the hard work of every student who took part. Speaking on behalf of myself and other students from my cohort the experience was invaluable, and we are very proud of the discussions and collaborations generated as a result of the day. The objective for the conference was; “to facilitate interactive discussion and debate around our chosen topics, enabling students and academics to share their expertise and network with those both within and outside the University.” I believe the conference showcased just this.
I would like to personally thank everyone who attended and took part in the day and make special acknowledgement to certain individuals for their contributions. Firstly to all our visiting speakers: Professor Jun Zhao, Dr. Foluke Adebise, Professor Leon Tikly, Aisha Thomas, Professor Carol Taylor and Matt Hern. Secondly to all of our student speakers: Emily, Paloma, Emma, Sherry, Song, Muassua, Mawada, Arshia, Shamiso, Driti , Ugbaad and also a special thanks to Angelika who coordinated our key note speaker and many aspects of the day. The photographs of the day were taken by Ali Ahmed and Yan Lee. Furthermore, we would all like to thank the Education department for funding the event and our lecturers, Laura Hankin, Julia Paulson and Rafael Mitchell.
J Muassua, B David and João Carlos Colaço, 2018. Estrutura de Opportunidades Educacionais em Moçambique. Publifix Editions: Maputo, Mozambique.
Taylor, C.A, 2013. ‘Objects bodies and space. Gender and embodied practices of mattering in the classroom.’ Gender and Education, 25 (6) 688-703.
Taylor, C.A and Gannon, S, 2018. ‘Doing time and motion diffractively: Academic life everywhere and all the time.’ Qualitative Studies in Education, 31 (6) 465-486.
Article written by: Dr. Angeline M. Barrett email@example.com
This week, academic and some professional services staff at the University of Bristol will be on strike. The industrial action relates, amongst other demands, to the terms of our pension benefits and contributions. Bristol is the first UK University to declare a climate emergency and the School of Education has developed its own Climate Strategy. Yet, our pension fund, USS, holds substantial shares in the fossil fuel industry. Let us use the time on the picket lines to build a climate Ethics for USS campaign.
USS investments in fossil fuels
According to the USS 2019
annual report, 40.9% of the Pension fund’s £64.7
billion assets, what is known as its implemented portfolio, is invested in
private equities (i.e. shares in private companies). Its website lists the top 100
equity investments (as of 31 March). Number one on the list is Royal Dutch
Shell plc with equities valued at £538 million. Shell is the sixth largest
extractor of fossil fuels in the world by volume. In total, I recognised eight
of the listed companies as being in the business of exploration and extraction
of fossil fuels:
Royal Dutch Shell plc
Glencore plc (coal mining)
Occidental Petroleum Corp.
Pioneer Natural Resources Co.
EOG Resources Co. (formerly part of Enron Oil
Petroleo Brasileiro SA (known as
Lukoil PJSC ADR (A Russian multinational)
The Guardian recently ran a series of articles on the
world’s largest corporate polluters. Shell and Petrobas both appear on the list
of 20 firms, which between them have been calculated to have contributed to 35%
of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane in our atmosphere since 1965,
according to research by the Climate Accountability Institute led by Heede (Taylor
& Watts, 2019; Heede,
2019a). 1965 was taken as the start point because by then the oil giants
already knew about that carbon emissions could lead to climate change (Bannerjee
et al., 2016). When approached to respond to Heede’s research, Shell claimed:
“… we fully support the Paris agreement and the need for society to transition to a lower-carbon future. We have already invested billions of dollars in a range of low-carbon technologies, … . Addressing a challenge as big as climate change requires a truly collaborative, society-wide approach. We’re committed to playing our part, by addressing our own emissions and helping customers to reduce theirs.” (Taylor 2019).
Shell is investing in renewables. In
2018-19, it invested $1-$2billon on renewables, around 4-6% of its $25-$30bn annual investment (The
Guardian, 2019). In this respect, the two European oil giants, Shell and BP
are doing much more than US, Saudi, Russian and other oil companies (Watts,
2019). However, Shell is also planning to increase production of crude oil
and gas by a colossal 38% between 2018 and 2030 (Watts,
Ambrose and Vaugh 2019). Future plans include fracking for gas and oil in
land belonging to the Mapuche indigenous people in the Neuquén province of Argentina
Guardian, 2019; Goñi,
2019). Local groups have complained about thousands of tonnes of toxic waste
dumped on their land by Shell’s subcontractor, Treater Neuquén S.A. (Raine,
2019). Petrobas is not investing in renewables but claims that through the
use of new carbon capture technologies, it can expand production with no change
to its carbon footprint (Taylor
2019). Certainly, it is expanding production. This month it purchased exploration
and production rights for two deep water oilfields off the coast of Argentina, opening
the way for the world’s biggest expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration (Petrobas,
Guardian, 2019). Despite all the rhetoric around support for the Paris
Climate Agreement, the rate at which oil and gas is pouring into global markets
is accelerating not slowing. For Shell, Petrobas, Pioneer Natural Resources,
EOG and Lukoil, exploration and exploitation of new oilfields is their main
Fossil fuel companies can present themselves as
progressively green because of the way that responsibility for carbon emissions
is accounted, including by the United Nations. Only the greenhouse gases
produced in the process of extraction, refining and transportation are
attributed to the oil companies. Like other fossil fuel companies, Shell and
Petrobas accept no responsibility for the emissions produced when their customers
burn the oil or gas they have extracted from the ground. By contrast, Heede’s research
attributes to the oil giants responsibility for all the carbon dioxide and
methane associated with the gas and oil they extract, including that produced
when it is burned by consumers.
It is disingenuous for Shell to point the finger at the rest of society. For decades the petroleum companies have spent millions on influencing public opinion and politicians. Shell is reported to be spending over £50 million per annum branding itself as a company that supports action against climate change (Laville, 2019a). A recently released report by Corporate Europe Observatory, Food & Water Europe, Friends of the Earth Europe and Greenpeace claims that Shell spent €35.6 million between 2010 and 2018 just on lobbying EU officials (Laville, 2019b). State-owned Petrobas’ entanglements with Brazilian politicians is even more problematic. The company has been embroiled in political corruption scandals, involving two Brazilian presidents, Lula and Rousseff, as well as a number of other high-level politicians (Chapman, 2018). Last year, Petrobas settled a lawsuit with investors in the US by agreeing to pay-outs of £2.2 billion as recompense for profits illegally siphoned off through bribes and kickbacks.
The current climate crisis demands immediate and drastic
action. The Guardian’s environmental editor, Jonathon Watts (2019)
points out that this will not come about through an accumulation of individual
consumer decisions but requires turning off the flow of fossil fuels at source
by phasing out extraction. The argument goes that as long as fossil fuels
continue to flow into global markets, carbon-dependent industries will continue
to grow. Whilst as individuals, we can and should change our behaviour, the burden
of responsibility does need to shift towards the companies, which for fifty
years have profited enormously from fossil fuels, whilst in full knowledge of
the potential impact on climate. As Naomi Klein observed, naming another oil
A lot of environmentalist discourse has been about erasing responsibility: “We’re all in this together… We’re all equally responsible.” Well, no – you, me and Exxon (Mobil) are not all in this together. The idea we’re all guilty is demobilising because it prevents us directing our anger at the institutions most responsible. (Forrest, 2014)
Yet, when it comes to Royal Dutch Shell, it appears that we are
all in it together not just through consuming fossil fuel consumption but in
benefiting from the profits. Investors play a key role in enabling their
business and companies are under obligation to generate and to pay dividends to
shareholders. Shell, therefore, can only make a dramatic change in direction in
its longstanding business model with support from shareholders. USS is probably
the largest pension fund in the UK, in terms of assets, so its corporate
influence is substantial, particularly within UK. USS claims leadership within
the sector in respect to its response to climate change. So, how is USS using
its influence as a shareholder?
USS summarises its overarching strategy as:
Using our scale and expertise to deliver secure futures for our members, support for universities and being a force for positive change in the UK and broader economy.(USS, 2019a: 9)
In an article (Russell,
2018) on fossil fuel divestment, the Head of Responsible Investment, explains
that due to its legal responsibilities, the first part of this strategy has to
take precedence over the second. Delivering secure futures for us, its members,
trumps positive change. USS, Russell explains, has a legal obligation to
deliver on its primary objective of delivering dividends on their investments
to meet the defined benefits for members. This we are told, rules out divesting for
ethical reasons alone and requires the fund to maintain a “balanced portfolio”
– presumably a balance between ethical and unethical investments. As an example
of what this means in practice, Russell points to £800 million (1.2 % of its
total assets) of renewable energy assets held by USS. USS has been proactive
not only in securing but making it possible to hold these types of assets. It
created and wholly owns as a subsidiary L1
Renewables, a platform from which it has loaned £500 million to fund
renewable energy technology.
Investing in clean energy is just one half of the USS
responsible investment strategy. The fund also seeks to use its stake in
companies “to promote positive boardroom action on ESG [Environmental, Social
and Governance] and ethical issues” (Russell,
2018). To exemplify this kind of
action, this year’s annual report (USS
2019a) explains how USS collaborated with other pension funds to engage
with Shell, leading to a commitment from the company to reduce carbon emissions
by 50% by 2050. This is presumably a 50% cut in the roughly 10% of emissions
that come from the extraction, refining and transportation of oil and gas; a
gain for the planet that will be dwarfed by the increase in emissions at the
point of consumption associated with Shell’s planned 35% increase in output by
the much earlier date of 2030.
In another success story (USS,
2019b), we are told that a resolution they proposed to three UK-listed mining conglomerates
(Glencore, Rio Tinto and Anglo-American) related to how they “were managing the
transition to a 2 degree world”. These were, in each case, “supported by an overwhelmingly
majority” of shareholders and board members. This exemplifies the risk
management discourse, which typifies asset managers’ response to climate change:
As a long-term investor USS wants to be able to assess how companies are managing climate change and the risks it poses to their business. (USS, 2019b)
Risk management needs to be informed by data. So USS, also encourages
companies to report on carbon emissions and their plans to respond to climate
What about us? What can we do?
USS’ climate change leadership represents a shift within but
not a rejection of the neoliberal profit-led logic of capitalist global markets
that has been key driver of climate crisis in the first place. The kind of logic
that places the security of profits over ethics. The School of Education’s mission
includes a commitment to promote social justice. The Centre for Comparative and
International Research in Education is concerned with issues of social,
environmental and epistemic justice in education. The part of the pension fund
that is invested in the environmental destruction of Mapuche people’s land runs
completely counter to the whole purpose and value-orientation of our
professional work and research. The gains that USS and its collaborators have
made in the Climate Agreement 100+
project arguably amount to little more than window-dressing, playing into
Shell’s green-washing strategy. USS talks of managing the risk of ‘stranded
assets’, but not the risks to lives and livelihoods associated with climate
catastrophe. Stranding shale and deep-water reserves is precisely what we need
to do fast. For humanity and the planet, they are not assets but threats to
security. The prospect of a near future
in which carbon emissions from fossil fuels increase by 35% is one to fill us
with dread and foreboding. Certainly, not one on which to place a bet. What
logic can there be to betting on a future in which we have no wish to live, or to
bequeath to our children?
So as we are members of USS and the money they invest is
ours, what can we do? If you earn over £55,000 or pay top-ups on your benefits
you can unilaterally withdraw the defined contribution part of your pension
fuels, tobacco, the arms trade, gambling and pornography. Just log into ‘My
USS’ and select the ‘Ethical Lifestyle’ option from the ‘Do it for me’ section
For the rest of us and the larger ‘defined benefit’ part of
the pension, the only way to bring change is through collective action. USS has
responded to such action in the past. The reason that USS is a national leader
in responsible investment is because of the demands of its members. USS first adopted a responsible investment
policy 20 years ago following a two-year Ethics for USS campaign, involving
university staff and students (Fair Pensions n.d.). In 2014, it published a detailed
response to recommendations of a report by ShareAction on
Ethical Investment because UCU demanded a response. Another Ethics for USS
campaign ran from 2014 to 2016, focused on divesting from companies with any
involvement in banned weapons (ShareAction
2016). USS participates in global investor initiatives in IIGCC and the
Climate Action 100+. It has a large in-house responsible investment team. USS communicates
its actions on climate change through its website because it knows its members
care deeply about such matters, although much of the information is
frustratingly vague. Our Union is represented by three appointees on its
(entirely white) 12-member, although one is currently suspended after asking
awkward questions around deficit calculations (UCU,
With greater levels of awareness of climate change and following
University of Bristol’s declaration of a climate emergency, here and now seems
an apt point to launch another Ethics for USS campaign with a focus on climate.
Industrial action brings us together in different ways that can build
solidarity. One of UCU’s planned actions is participation in the climate strike
on Friday 29 November. So, let us use the next week to join up the dots between
pension investments and climate change. Let us build a collective campaign to
demand a broader, deeper, more robust responsible investment strategy. Let us
tell USS that we appreciate their efforts over the last five years to
constructively engage with companies such as Shell and Glencore but they do not
go far enough. Over the next five years, the urgency of climate change requires
complete divestment from all companies that persist in expanding production of oil,
gas and coal. Let us insist that USS engages more closely with its members to explain
and be accountable for their investment choices. Let us insist that they engage
with the expertise of research institutes such as Bristol’s Cabot Institute for the Environment.
Let us through sustained collective campaigning attempt to break down the gulf
in values between the investment sector, where unethical investments are
justifiable, and the HE sector, where ethical scrutiny is unavoidable.
If anyone working for USS is reading this, what are your
plans for Friday? Do pop down to a climate demonstration, it will be a great
way to get to know us better.
During the last three weeks, Chilean unrests show to the world the social crisis of neoliberalism as a structure of state formation. The international media has broken the communicational censorship imposed by the Chilean government, showing violations of Human Right (see the links The Guardian, The Washington Post). The Chilean political situation has been savage; 5.629 people have been arrested, 2.009 people injured, 197 people have lost one or both eyes. Last weekend a 21-years-old undergraduate student was blinded by rubber bullets in his both eyes. Also, there are 283 cases of police sexual abuse (you can see the violent action of Chilean police here -sensitive content-, and a New York Times report here). I share my experience in the Chilean unrests while I was running my fieldwork.
I. The cauldron as scenario
The story of neoliberalism is intimately linked to the history of
a small Latin American country. Chile was the first state formation which
embraced neoliberalism (Harvey, 2005). From the Coup d’ Etat in 1973 (Klein, 2008), carried out by civilians and
soldiers with the support of CIA and the Nixon-Kissinger’s administration,
neoliberalism has suffered a series of deployments that touch every sphere of
living. The instalment of neoliberalism in Chile hit the society as a Tsunami
does, setting up a crisis, disciplining, torturing, murdering, and disappearing
people opponents to the ideas of the free market.
The fear of that ages operated in subjective levels. The Chilean
neoliberalism; a.k.a. The experiment of Chicago; emerged as a macro-economic
contra-revolution, privatising the national industry and natural resources,
eliminating the notion of a welfare state, installing the logic of a subsidiary
State, besides the culture and values-oriented to results. There exist a wide
body of research that analyse the structural scopes of neoliberalism in Chile (Bellei, 2018; Falabella, 2015; Morales, 2014; Ruiz,
2012). In this vein, the Redondo and Munoz (2009) research points that “[people have been expropriated from the real spaces which support the
associative bond, and keeping illusory and contradictory spaces that ended in
subjects’ isolation]” (p. 400).
As result of this neoliberal process Chilean
population have observed the privatization of water, education and health
(three decades before of the current NHS situation) the retirement system with
monthly incomes of $128.127 Chilean pesos -clp$- (£125.8), a minimum wage of
clp$276.000 (£270.98) in context where the line of poverty arises to
clp$430.000 (£422) (Benjamin
Saez; Fundacion Sol) for a family of four people, and a minimum
monthly waste per family of clp$1.500.000 (£1472.73) (Encuesta de
Presupuestos Familiares – INE) including in it education, transportation,
health, and credits. This situation generates that 11 million Chileans are
highly indebted, in a total population of 19 million (Marco
Kremerman de Fundación Sol, 2019).
In the other hand, Chile is a rich country in terms of its natural resources,
with an annual per capita income of us$15.923,4
similar to Romania with us$12.301. (World Bank, 2018), obtaining a privilege
situation in regional terms.
The chart presents Chile as an oasis of macro-economic stability (and a population subsumed to the neoliberal doctrine) in the region. However, the extreme inequalities of the neoliberal structure present that only 1% of the Chilean population is the owner of the 26,5% of the total Chilean GDP, while the 10% of the population concentrates the 65% of the GDP (Source CEPAL, 2018).
II. The Neoliberal private malaises
If you visit Chile, you can
easily observe these inequalities. The 55% of workers live with salaries less
than clp$400.000 (£398,14), that provokes enormous rates on indebtment; 24% of
Chilean maintain credits elevated to six times of their wage. Chilean people
observe the plot of several companies, such as drugstore chains (Editorial
express), pharmaceutical companies (CPI), supermarkets (AmericaRetail),
even toilet rolls companies colluded (Reuters) to set up the prices of their products. In addition to
that, while the average of retirement income is £125.8, last year the insurance
companies (called Retirement Funds Administrators, AFP in its Spanish acronyms)
obtained profits for more than US$551 million. Interestingly, the military
dictatorship created a separate retirement system to soldiers, with monthly
payments ten times higher than the rest of the population. In 2017, the Chilean
Health Ministry declared that 6.320 patients died waiting for attention in the
public health system (Radio Bio-Bio). Even, the institutions dedicated to the safety of the
country have been involved in cases of corruption. The army, between 2010-2014,
stole US$200 million, while the police stole US$36.161.513,60. In all those
cases, the Justice system applied risible sentences, such as attending courses
30 years Chilean population tolerate that situation creating a sort of “Private
malaise” in the words of the UNDP Project.
This discomfort was embodied by the de-legitimation of the democratic
institutions and by Chilean secondary students who start a series of
mobilisation to evade the payment of the public transportation after the
increment of the fare (you can see a video here).
III. Chilean unrest as resistances to neoliberal moulds of living
I am in Chile since the beginning of the unrest, and I
have actively participated in the peaceful demonstration, you can see the
people dancing, waving flags and singing. Finally, since many decades the
people have found new bonds of association, the parks are full of families and
children playing, surpassing the neoliberal isolation we are marching together.
However, The president Pinera declared the “war against a powerful enemy” (The Guardian), that enemy is the un-armed people demonstrating his
discomfort on the neoliberal Chilean state, a population who claim for a new
constitution to change the current design of a subsidiary state. It started in
Santiago, the capital city of Chile, but rapidly spread out to the rest of the
country; in that war, soldiers and police officers have acted with ferocity (The New York
Times), shooting, hitting and abusing people. I
was threatened by police in a peaceful demonstration at Plaza Nunoa, in the
presence of my wife and our both sons (You can see a video of that peaceful
demonstration here). The repression have been savage (a video is available here, sensitive content); indeed, the uncle of one
participant of my research was kicked by soldiers until became brain dead,
there are more than 20 people dead since the beginning of the revolt. But, we
are still struggling, after three weeks the Chilean people began a national-range
industrial action, and actively occupy the principal squares of each city and
towns. They are claiming for equity and social justice, a better distribution
of wealth, through a new constitution constructed by the people through a
constituent assembly. Neoliberalism, in its logic of marginalisation,
procedures of exclusion, and exceptions (Ong, 2006) created this bottleneck. The marginalised are in the
streets following the words of Paulo Freire: “the democratisation of the
shamelessness which took the country, the disrespectful treatment to the public
thing, the impunity; they are rooted so profoundly that the nation has begun to
stand on its feet, to demonstrate. The young people are out on the streets;
they criticise, they claim transparency, the public spaces are crowded again,
there is still a hope”.
people need solidarity of the international community, in most of the cities exist
facebook groups named “asamblea de chilenos en”, (assembly of Chileans in…).
Specifically, you could find the Bristol community organised in Asamblea de
Chilenxs en UK or in the twitter @ChileansB, and the international assembly Chile
Bellei, C. (2018). La nueva educación pública.
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Post written by: Mary Ryder ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mary Ryder is a 1st year doctoral researcher at the School of Education, University of Bristol. Her research explores the conflict narratives of rural farmers in drug-producing regions of Colombia, within the country’s transitional justice processes.
The University of Bristol has been working with the CTC through a variety of different collaborative
projects including ‘MEMPAZ: Bringing
Memories in from the Margins’, funded by AHRC, Newton and Colciencias,
which supports the creative memory practices of local organisations to bring
memories from the margins into Colombia’s transitional justice processes; and ‘Transitional justice
as education’, funded by AHRC, which works to support the gender and
pedagogy work of the CTC by connecting it with feminist and educational
expertise from around the world.
The week of events
served as a unique opportunity to hear directly from the CTC about the
achievements, innovations and challenges faced in the implementation of the
peace agreement, at this pivotal time in Colombia’s history. In this blog I
highlight the key messages shared.
Gender and Pedagogical
Alejandra Coll, of the Gender Working Group at the CTC, addressed the question: ‘What does it mean to be a feminist and learning Truth Commission?’ Together, she and Ana Cristina Navarro, of the Pedagogy Working Group, discussed the Truth Commission’s innovative approaches to gender and pedagogy – two fundamental issues on the peace-building agenda in Colombia.
Alejandra Coll declared
the CTC a feminist Truth Commission. Colombia is the first Truth Commission to
have a gender approach central to its entire mandate, which is intended to
uncover the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on the lives of women,
girls and LGBTI people as a consequence of the violence exercised against them
because of their gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. The Gender
Working Group at the CTC has adopted a framework grounded in feminist theory
and is employing feminist methodologies designed to promote the participation
of women and LGBTI people.
Do Colombian society and
Colombia’s education system embrace diversity? This is one of the key questions
that needs to be tackled through the CTC’s intersectional work. It should be
noted that the CTC is able to make recommendations in its final report, to
address structural inequalities and stimulate long-term policy and social
change, including through education.
The Truth-telling of
‘the Colombia outside Colombia’
Beristain commented on the work being done to collect testimonies in “theColombia outside of Colombia”, to investigate how the armed conflict has
been experienced by Colombians living abroad, many of whom were forced to leave
the country in exile.
asserted the challenges of carrying out truth-seeking processes in such a
polarised context, where lies have been institutionalised, pain internalised,
and social fractures run deep in society.
The CTC intends to
create new spaces where previously silenced memories can be shared. Carlos
Beristain was joined by members of the UK Truth Commission hub of civil society
organisations to reflect upon their efforts to encourage UK based Colombians to
give their testimony.
“We hope you fall in
love with the truth commission and become the channel of communication between
people who want to give a testimony and us,” said Andrei Gomez Suarez, who is one of
the individuals documenting interviews for the Truth Commission in the
The Challenges of
Working in a Polarised Context
Gonzalo discussed the
question of who produces memory work and for whom? He raised concerns that in
Colombia today, memory and truth are being threatened by “toxic narratives,”
made up of hatred, vengeance and fear, built up over years of conflict, and
driven by those who oppose the negotiated peace agreement.
Related to this is the
issue of legitimacy and memory production. A key challenge for the CTC is to
ensure that marginalised voices, which have historically been excluded and
discriminated against, are heard and taken seriously by the Colombian
“It would seem that we
are moving from a memory by and for the victims to one constructed by and for
The Opportunity for
The final event of the
week, a screening of ‘The Witness’ (El Testigo), a film about the photographer
Jesús Abad Colorado who has documented violence in Colombia for over 25 years, allowed
Gonzalo Sánchez and Lina Malagón, a Human Rights Lawyer teaching at the
University of Bristol, to reflect on whether Colombia is ripe for
The documentary tells
the inspiring human stories of the people in Abad Colorado’s photographs,
exploring the pertinent themes of resilience and forgiveness, and what they
mean to those for whom so much is at stake. According to Gonzalo, the
invaluable memory work of Abad Colorado to not only document, but also humanise
the conflict, opened the door for the victims to speak out.
The film generates a
strong emotional connection with the conflict, felt inclusively by those who
experiences the conflict indirectly or from a distance. is time to know the
truth because we all have a story to tell and we need to move on, expressed
Lina, in a resounding message of hope.
Bristol Colombia week 2019 provided a valuable opportunity
for many Colombians and friends of Colombia to learn more about the CTC and to
connect with the country’s transitional justice process, and with one another,
so we can support peacebuilding from afar.
Colombia will not end with the culmination of the CTC’s three-year period. It
is hoped that the final report produced by the CTC will create the conditions
conducive to peace and will be accompanied by meaningful efforts to promote
dialogue, reconciliation and coexistence on a local and national level, and
beyond the national borders.
Tigist Grieve, a member of CIRE at the School of Education, sat with our colleague Clare Walsh to talk about her research for the University of Bristol magazine Nonesuch October 2019 issue. The article is copied below.
In a year where we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of men landing on the Moon, we still can’t achieve access to education for all across the globe.1 I continually ask myself, why not? How is it so hard? We make it complicated by not listening and by not understanding other people’s perspectives. Why is it the trend to look at people living in poverty from a deficit point of view? My work as a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow has given me the opportunity to build on my years of PhD research, which focuses on improving the educational outcomes and empowerment of adolescent girls in Ethiopia. I want to bring those voices of marginalised adolescent girls to the ongoing debate of gender and empowerment, while recognising the effort and resilience that goes unnoticed when we have a deficit-based perspective about certain categories of people.
I want to inspire people to go where others
would never expect them to by engaging with relevant stakeholders in Ethiopia
In particular, my work is about seeing the social, engaging and
responding to local voices. In the words of the writer Arundhati Roy ‘There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only
the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.’
My inspiration for examining voice is the inspiring work of
Robert Chambers, author of Rural Development: Putting the Last First. I
am listening to the everyday lived experience of people. My work is about voice
– the voices of children, of women, of the resource-strapped communities in
rural areas. Really, international development policy to date hasn’t given
adequate space to hear them, it’s not informed by their experiences or by their
voices.2 Even where there is a claim for ‘voices
of the poor’ it is proxy voices where the privileged few speak on their behalf
from a position of assumption.
My work is focused on disseminating my research findings back to
target communities in Ethiopia, to spark constructive debate about rural
schooling and development. I want to do this in a way that challenges policy
makers, development practitioners, donors, teachers, researchers and
I’m researching within two communities in Ethiopia, a peri-urban
and rural, chosen because they are under the same local authority, but with
considerable geographical differences. I believe there’s a misconception that
certain communities don’t understand the value of education, but we need to
research why, looking at policy, political economy, culture, social pressure.
For example, despite the increasing enrolment, school attendance is very poor,
not because education is not valued but because the expectation that children
will be working around their homes and farms is greater. Girls’ attendance is
much lower than boys because societal pressure is higher on girls. Boys have
much better autonomy in how they use their time while girls in rural areas are
time-poor. My work confirms the importance of recognising the difficulty of
transforming gender relations through schooling alone.
We need to make informed decisions through lessons learned from
quality research. The joy of being a researcher at the University of Bristol is
the opportunity to collaborate with world-leading multi-disciplinary teams
interested in developing ideas to meet the global challenges of development.
In analysing categories of children and childhood experiences, I’ve
discovered that children are highly mobile in search of opportunities for them
and their families, starting from a very young age. My research showed that the
ultimate question in rural Ethiopia is ‘Who is this child to me?’ 16 per cent
of children in households in my area of research do not live with their
biological families and relatedness matters in this culture. This context is so
important in Sub-Saharan Africa, which has such a huge population of children
orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.3 The concept of
family is a complex one and under-theorised in the context of Ethiopia. If
you’re related to the head of the household, you have access to better
I’m also looking at issues such as access to water and autonomy
of reproductive health (or lack of). These also play a part in preventing girls
from obtaining an education. A school without a water source or toilet
facilities is not hospitable to children, even less so to adolescent girls
dealing with menstruation. Climate change also has a part to play in water
scarcity issues, with the African continent identified as one of the parts of
the world most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.4
References 1 UIS. (2018). One in Five Children, Adolescents and Youth is Out of School. [Available online at: uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/fs48-one-five-children-adolescents-youth-out-school-2018-en.pdf.] (last accessed 23.08.19). 2 Brock, K. and McGee R., (eds) (2002). Knowing Poverty: critical reflections on participatory research and policy. Earthscan. 3 UNICEF. (2016). For Every Child, End AIDS: Seventh Stocktaking Report, 2016. 4 Serdeczny, O., Adams, S., Baarsch, F., Coumou, D., Robinson, A., Hare, B., Schaeffer, M., Perrette, M., Reinhardt, J. (2016). Climate change impacts in Sub-Saharan Africa: from physical changes to their social repercussions. Regional Environmental Change. 1-16.
Zibah is a 4th year doctoral researcher at the School of Education, University of Bristol. Drawing from a social justice perspective, her research is a critical participatory study that problematises the wellbeing of female undergraduate students in Nigeria. Addressing this year’s theme of the International Women’s Day on 8th March, ‘Balance for Better’, Zibah’s post reflects on the continuing effects of patriarchy on women from one society in West Africa. Find her on Twitter: @zibahnwako
In April 2018, I received an informal invitation from a female cousin stating that she was being conferred with the title of first female international patron of a certain organisation that was founded in Nigeria, West Africa. I replied with half-hearted congratulations and forgot all about it. When the subject came up again in June in an online family group chat, I was in the process of writing the context chapter of my thesis. The more I wrote about the influence of patriarchy on lived experiences of female students, the more this invitation piqued my interest and I decided to conduct a little research on the said organisation. My initial findings were that it had been established in the year 1971 and although membership was open to women, none of the patrons was female – in my view, a veritable ‘old boys’ club’. I therefore accepted the invitation to attend the event for two reasons – to support my cousin in her conferment, and as a gender professional with my researcher cap on.
The Traditional Face of Patriarchy
Some background information – my cousin is a learned, successful medical doctor who runs two General Practices in England. She is a mother to four young children and is the ADA (eldest daughter) of her parents with seven siblings. A respected member in her religious community, the Catholic Church, she is very much involved in charitable works both in the United Kingdom and Nigeria. She also holds the traditional title of ‘Oduenyi’, translated as ‘the Elephant’s Tusk or Ivory’ (Okere, 1996), a symbol of ‘great strength’ in Igbo land (see footnote 1). I would describe her as having a strong personality with well-honed leadership skills. Attaining this position therefore, was well deserved albeit not without opposition, as I later discovered, from the ‘powers that be’ i.e. some of the men who had overseen the group since its inception 47 years ago. It was clear to me that this struggle for control stemmed from the patriarchal nature of the organisation and its members.
According to the English Oxford Living Dictionary, one of the definitions of the term patriarchy is ‘a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it’ (Oxford University Press, 2018: online); in this case, an institutional system. This organisation describes itself as a non-profit, non-political, social and philanthropic body whose membership is open to everyone regardless of tribe, religion or race. It has a current total of 42 branches in Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America. That said, I observed from their literature that the organisation’s membership is mainly male. One member stated that their motto of unity, love and service is founded in their principle of ‘be your brother’s keeper’ [italics mine – highlighting that ‘brother’ is a gendered word]. I also noticed that most of the women photographed at the group’s events were tagged as members’ wives. During the 2-day conferment event, all the group members in attendance were male, which begs the question: where are the female members of the organisation?
Another factor noted was that although open to everyone, most of the members are from the Igbo tribe of Nigeria (see footnote 1). Perhaps this is because the organisation was founded by an Igbo man soon after the Biafran war in Southeast Nigeria which lasted from the years 1967 to 1970. I assume that for this same reason, the activities surrounding the conferment took on a traditional slant. For example, the event was held in our village and as the title-holder Oduenyi, this meant that numerous courtesy visits were made to the local and traditional rulers such as the ‘Igwe’ (King of the village) to formally invite them for the event. We also visited the men and women family groups (known as ‘Umunna’ and ‘Umuada’ respectively) of both parents of the conferred. On each visit, traditional gifts presented to the individuals and groups including a cow, bags of rice, tubers of yams, kolanuts, and gallons of palm wine.
To my amazement, the 2-day event turned out to be a big, expensive affair. The first day consisted of lengthy closed-door sessions between the patrons and members of the organisation. I observed that soon after one all-male group left, another arrived. My cousin later explained that whilst the second group comprised of the president of the club and chairmen of the various branches,
‘…the first group was mixed with both the break-away faction and the official main group but they were mostly the patrons of the club… also highlighting the turmoil and division going on in the club at the time of my installation. Each faction of the club was competing to be the one officiating at the ceremony. I had to be seen to be neutral at all times.’
Nevertheless, the investiture was performed in one of the private sessions, with the formal certificate presented the next day (see next photo).
On day 2, the ceremony commenced with a Catholic mass, followed by a grand and colourful celebration attended by dignitaries and villagers alike. It was a rich mix of traditional attires, cultural dance troupes, decorative banners, live music bands, and vast amounts of drinks and food. The event was also publicised and reported on the local radio and television channels.
The event brochure was filled with pictures and congratulatory messages from family, friends, well-wishers and members of the organisation to the first female patron. Like the phrase ‘be your brother’s keeper’, the term ‘patron’ is another gender signifier, and I wondered if a title such as ‘patroness’ or ‘matron’ would not be more appropriate. In any case, I realised that the honour was not accorded to her without a struggle and therefore the more pertinent question was: how and when was the decision taken to confer the patronship on an already accomplished, successful woman in her profession, home and community? I found one answer in the pages of the brochure, from the President of the organisation’s branch in London –
‘Congratulations on your installation as a patron of our prestigious club… as the first woman in the history of the club to attain such a position. You had a pipe dream that became a burning ambition. You stood your ground. You remained focused and fought for it, clawing away giant obstacles till the end. And what a result. You must feel good that you achieved your goal and very proud that in doing you have created a record… I feel optimistic as you rise in status within the hierarchy that the club will henceforth experience greater progress and monumental prosperity.’
The Other Women
During our interview after the event, I asked more questions such as: ‘Are you the only female member of the Club?’ and ‘Where are the other women?’ From her answers, our discussion extended to the seemingly implicit role of women as promoters of patriarchy (I have written another piece about this). In the meantime, her advice to women is:
‘…to be the best that one could be in whatever they are doing in life. They will be noticed soon enough. Also, if you volunteer to do something, perform that duty as if you are doing a paid job, i.e. with passion and dedication. You will stand out in the crowd. Thirdly, no doors are permanently shut/closed. Continue to knock until it is opened for you, in other words, persistence always pays off in the end.’
As for patriarchy – still alive and kicking – this woman took on the challenge, battled for herself and the other seemingly faceless and voiceless women in the organisation and paid a handsome price. In a sense, she fought and won!
So now in 2019, in response to balance for better, I say:
A LUTA CONTINUA… THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES!!!
 ADA is usually a traditional name given to the first female child in a family from Igbo land, an area in the Southeast of Nigeria. The Igbos are one of the 3 main tribes in the country.
 Considered as the most important decision-making group in the Igbo family and society, the ‘Umunna’ is a hierarchy of patrilineages, i.e. the male line of descent from a founding ancestor (Akakuru et al., 2014).
‘Umuada’ is a forum for ‘all daughters of a particular clan, village, town or state… designed to present and protect their interests’ (Michael Vincent, downloaded from https://www.academia.edu/4733270/Umuada on 27th November 2018).