Some of the principles for T-learning facilitation have been co-developed with the Environmental Monitoring Group and AWARD in a ‘Changing Practice’ course for environmental activists in South Africa, which has now drawn to a close after 18 months of intense focus and learning.
Seventeen community-based environmental justice activists from civil society organizations throughout the Olifants catchment in Limpopo Province, South Africa, graduated in August, after having developed cases documenting their ongoing change projects.
The change projects were centred around matters of concern that the participants brought to the course – including questions such as: How can ‘host communities’ hold mining companies accountable, why are our rivers and wetlands so polluted, and how can we reclaim our farming heritage. Building on participants’ knowledge and experience, this course was an opportunity to develop deeper, more reflexive and contextualised understanding of environmental injustice, to develop empathy and solidarity, and to strengthen the organizations and networks that will carry these change projects forward.
This course enabled ‘cognitive justice’ in action in many ways. The course participants were all already dedicated activists and leaders in their field; they are on the front lines of the struggle for environmental and social justice in one of the most polluted and heavily exploited catchments in the country. However, their contribution, their knowledge and their work is often overlooked, always under-valued, and in many cases places them at risk of violent intimidation. For the course participants to see their own words and their hard work represented in published form, to have the opportunity to present their findings to a diverse audience of partners, and to graduate in academic gowns, was highly significant and a reason for the whole changing practice community to celebrate. Previous graduates of the course, wearing borrowed PhD caps from their colleagues in academia, along with the facilitators, presented their certificates, welcomed them into their new community of practice and encouraged them in their ongoing activism. For the T-LEARNING facilitators, it was a deeply humbling and moving day, and they report experiencing profound transformation and learning through being learner-facilitators on this course.