Militant Education, Liberation Struggle, Consciousness:

The PAIGC education in Guinea Bissau 1963-1978.

by Sonia Borges (Author)
©2019 Thesis 268 Pages
Series: Studia Educationis Historica, Volume 4


This present work brings to light the educational project developed by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) during the period of the armed liberation struggle against the Portuguese colonial regime in Guinea Bissau (1963-1974). The work goes further to explore the practices of education in the period after independence until 1978. It includes an extended analysis of reports and printed material produced by the PAIGC, and expands its sources to oral testimonies, exploring the individual and collective experiences on education under the colonial regime, that finally led the Party militants to develop their concept, practices and materials for the militant education project. An invaluable contribution to the history of education in Guinea Bissau in specific and African and World history of education in general, the present work leads the reader through the paths of education during e colonialism, and the challenges to the process of decolonize education during and after the armed conflict for independence and liberation.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Dedication Page
  • Acknowledgments
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • List of Abbreviations
  • The PAIGC. The recovery of the history of ‘militant education’ and the role of the ‘walking archives’
  • The written archives and ‘walking archives’: the researcher and the oral history recovery
  • 1 The PAIGC’s freedom fighter. The process becoming conscious and militant (1940’s-1972)
  • 1 Colonialism, education and the Portuguese colonial policies
  • 1.1 Colonial educational structures in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde
  • 1.2 Everyday realities: legislation, school and the daily life
  • 1.3 The arrival to Portugal: the consciousness and militancy spaces
  • 1.4 Underground self-re-education centers in Lisbon
  • 1.5 The world outside the Portuguese colonial dictatorship and the escapes towards the struggle
  • 1.6 The development of anti-colonial consciousness and political organizations. The role of education in the struggle for liberation
  • 2 Building and organizing educational structures in Guinea Bissau (1960-1972)
  • 1 The PAIGC educational project within its minor and major program
  • 1.1 The educational project within the PAIGC’s program
  • 1.2 The mobilization campaign as an integral part of PAIGC’s educational project
  • 1.3 Conscencialize parents towards the benefits of education for their children
  • 1.4 Pupils trajectories to school
  • 1.5 Building and organizing school structures in the liberated areas of the Guinean territory
  • 1.5.1 The Tabanca schools
  • 1.5.2 The boarding schools in the liberated areas of the Guinean territory
  • 1.5.3 The boarding schools in the neighbour countries of Republic of Guinea and Republic of Senegal
  • 1.5.4 Locate PAIGC’s school in the Portuguese colonial map
  • 1.6 Interpreting the numbers of PAIGC’s educational development
  • 3 Militant education. Ideas and practices during the liberation struggle (1964-1974)
  • 1 Militant education: the emergence of concept
  • 1.1 The school regulations and the establishment of routines
  • 1.2 The ‘collective’ school administration and the socialist influences
  • 1.3 Military influences in militant education: regulating behaviours of teachers and students inside and outside the school
  • 1.4 Militant education for adults. Becoming a PAIGC militant teacher
  • 1.5 The militant teacher and the elaboration of the school manuals
  • 1.6 The militant teacher and the armed militant. The school curriculum for adults
  • 1.7 From adult to pupils education. The education of the Party Pioneer
  • 1.8 The school manual: messages in the lessons
  • 1.9 Militant curriculum: between the ambitions, resources and tensions
  • 1.10 The life inside and outside the classroom. Being love in times of war
  • 4 The conception of an educational structure after the independence. The Bissau meeting in 1978 and the perspectives for a pan-African education
  • 1 The extended militant school in Africa’s liberated areas: the case of Angola and Mozambique
  • 1.1 Guinea- Bissau: re-building education after independence
  • 1.2 Institutionalizing of pan-African militant education? The Bissau meeting in 1978
  • Final considerations
  • 1 Liberation struggles and the PAIGC militant education ‘for revolution’
  • Short biographies of PAIGC militants
  • Annexes
  • List of Photos
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • List of Annexes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Interviews Index

The PAIGC. The recovery of the history of ‘militant education’ and the role of the ‘walking archives’

As you know, this national liberation struggle already has its history, and as all the struggles in the world, it has a beginning, it has a development phase, which is the one that we find ourselves now, but the struggle will never have an end, because it’s Man’s struggle for the achievement of his ideals of progress, of peace and justice. This struggle will never end as long as these men exist. In the core of the history of our national liberation struggle are men and it is the men that make the history. Some of these men occupy an eminent place, a distinguished place in this gigantic work.1

Mário Pinto de Andrade, 1973

Recent studies suggest September of 1959 - and not 1956 as it had previously been thought, as the most plausible date that the African Party for Independence (PAI) was founded in Guinea Bissau by a group of anti-colonialist Guinean and Cape Verdean militants. It was in a meeting that took place in Dakar in October of 1960 that the PAI adopted the final name of “African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde,” or PAIGC, in order to avoid any confusion with the Malian PAI of Majhemout Diop.2 In 1963, and after several attempts to negotiate independence with the Portuguese colonial regime, the Party officially started an armed liberation struggle in the Guinean forest in the name of independence for Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde.3 The armed guerrilla struggle lasted from January ←15 | 16→23, 1963 until April 25, 1974. In the meantime, challenging Portuguese rule, the PAIGC self-proclaimed the independence of Guinea Bissau on September 24, 1973, although it was only recognized by the Portuguese government on September 10th of the following year.

For the past fifty-four years, much has been written about the PAIGC liberation struggle, with a special emphasis, on the most charismatic figure of the movement: the General Secretary Amílcar Cabral (1924-1973). A review of the literature on the reveals the great difficulty to make a study that separates the liberation struggle from the figure of Amílcar Cabral. Works by Mario Pinto de Andrade,4 Basil Davidson,5 Patrick Chabal,6 Sónia Vaz Borges,7 and more recently Julião Sousa’s biography and Reiland Rabacka’s work on the integration of Cabral’s thought in the realm of the Africana studies8 are of particular relevance.

However, the almost exclusive focus on the national and international politics of the military side of the liberation struggle, and the studies on Amílcar Cabral’s anti-colonial and decolonial thoughts, and the strategies for liberation, has distracted attention from other strands of the struggle, contributing to the production of silences around other themes. The first silence surrounds the subject of individual experiences and the collective work that the liberation struggle represents. The second silence is related to the specific policies, processes and pragmatisms of the Party ideology in the terrain that were developed during the struggle. Here I am referring to areas such as health practices, the development of justice system, or the commercial exchanges practices within the population. There is also a silence concerning the foreign help that PAIGC received, specifically the ones related with educational ideas, practices and experiences. ←16 | 17→Referring to education, the last process of silence and extracted from PAIGC original documents is the idea of “militant education.”

Among the few studies dealing with the PAIGC’s educational system are those written by Swedish scholars Birgitta Dahl and Knut Andreasson involved in the events analyzed in their work their work Guinea-Bissau: rapport om ett land och en befrielserörelse,9 1971, as well as the work of the Swidish scholar Lars Rudebeck Guinea-Bissau. A study of political mobilization,10 1974. Birgitta Dahl and Knut Andreasson’s work is particularly valuable for its inclusion of visual material of PAIGC educational facilities in the liberated areas that the authors obtained when they visited the territory in 1970. To complement this, Lars Rudebeck offers us a first-hand critical analysis of the statistical data provided at the time by the Party. Rudebecks’ work is also valuable for the information that provides on the subjects of teacher training, school curricula and the general role of education in the PAIGC’s liberation struggle.

The studies that followed these pioneering works, more or less reproduced the same information that these authors had collected and analyzed. These include the works of Paul Bélanger, Une pratique de contre-ècole: L’expérience éducative du mouvement de libération nationale dans les zones libérées de lá Guinée-Bissau; 11 Mustafah Dhada, Warriors at Work: How Guinea was really set free;12 and Ocuni Cá, Perspectiva histórica da Organização do sistema educacional da Guiné Bissau.13

Using these previous studies as references, my aim throughout this work is to explore PAIGC’s ‘militant education’ project, by posing the following questions: What kind of educational structures existed in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde before the start of the liberation struggle? How did the Party developed its concept of ‘militant education’ and what were the relations between political education, liberation and ‘military’? What kind of curriculum and ←17 | 18→educational and political projects did the PAIGC put to work during the liberation struggle? How did these initiatives work in an education field marked by the rejection of colonial culture and, simultaneously, the integration into the liberation movement of many of the techniques and practices of the colonizers? How did individuals and groups reshape their identities and practices – in the sense of their comprehensive re-education– in the context of the struggles? And, finally, what were the outcomes of these educational experiences in the aftermath of independence?

Although the PAIGC militant education project is generally historically perceived to have been heavily influenced by Paulo Freire’s work on the Pedagogy of the Oppressed,14 it was actually developed in loco in Guinea Bissau some years earlier than Freire’s work.15

Militant education as a liberation struggle idea and practice depicted a process that presupposed a break, rather than a continuity, with the colonial education. Its practices and its concepts of education were strongly difined by an attempt to radically deferentiate from the ‘old’. Militant Education oscillated between the ideological aspects of the liberation movements and the stricter conditions dictated by the situation of the liberation struggle. Considerably shaped by utopian elements, militant education depicted a set of representations and practices that linked politics and education in a much stronger and immediate way than the usual description of the political links that education suggests.

The written archives and ‘walking archives’: the researcher and the oral history recovery

The present book draws on an extended collection of printed archival material, the majority of which is located outside of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde. Many of the documents related to the liberation struggle are located in Portugual. The materials preserved in the National Archives of Torre do Tombo in Lisbon were largely the result of the activities of the Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado - PIDE- DGS (International Police for the Defense of the State) – a central institution of the Portuguese dictatorship. Unsuprinsingly the, this collection shows above all the objectives followed by the PIDE and, consequently, it is largely an ←18 | 19→archive built with the intention of defending Portuguese colonial government and thus present a unfavourable picture of the PAIGC and their achievements. Another problem affecting the archival sources conducted for this research is the fragmentary nature of the documentation collected by the Arquivo & Biblioteca Mario Soares Foundation. Finding sequential documents in this valuable material was almost impossible due to interruptions in the series. This unfortunate situation is largely the outcome of the civil war in Guinea-Bissau (1998-1999), during which the building hosting the Amílcar Cabral and PAIGC archives was bombed and looted, resulting in huge losses ofarchival material. However, some useful material can still be found Guinea Bissau and in Cape Verde in Amílcar Cabral Foundation.

However, consideration of the risky tasks of teaching and learning in schools located in the forest as well as the impact of these risks on the spatial mobility and material precariousness of this endeavor, demanded the inclusion of oral testimonies of PAIGC’s militants and educationalists. Such approach opened the possibility for addressing aspects of this period for which written documentation may have been lost forever. The inclusion of oral testimonies from the liberation freedom fighters is what distinguishes this present book from the usual descriptions of the PAIGC’s militant education program. The book introduces personal experiences into the historical narrative, thereby providing a perspective on the creation and consolidation of ‘militant education’ beyond the dominant rhetoric of Party documents. The combination of written archival material and oral testimonies presented in this work represents a shift in allows for a shift in historiographical approach. Whereas the political history of the liberation struggle emphasizes the individual figure of Amílcar Cabral, my work treats the liberation struggle and the educational system it produced as a collective endeavor.

Of course, from a historiographical standpoint the reliance on oral history sources poses a set of challenges. For more than forty years, PAIGC-related stories and experiences of ‘militant education’ were recollected only in small private groups of people who participated in the struggle. During this time, while these people were rebuilding their in Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde or in the diaspora, they traveled and worked, reformulated their ideals and memories about the liberation struggle, they forgot some major details surrounding the events of the struggle. “The struggle was made of walking and marching, a constant walking” was the way many PAIGC militants that I interviewed described the processes of the liberation struggle. This constant walk or march, continues to this very day in time and in space. To symbolize this process and the constant construction an deconstruction of militants’ memories, I choose the term walking archive. This ←19 | 20→concept symbolizes theis group’s life processes, their errancy and their itinerancy. The walking archive referes to an collection of memories that is not fixed in one place or house and whose information is not constant or fixed in time, but whose contents are brought to life by the questions and curiosity of those who are interested in accessing them.

The process of interviewing is directly associated with the process of remembering and it relies heavily on how these memories are recalled and the way they are narrated. Describing the process of remembering, Lisa Smith, in her work Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous People,16 characterizes it as a painful process “because it involves remembering not just what colonization was about but what being dehumanized meant”. Yet she writes, “Both healing and transformation become crucial strategies in any approach which asks a community to remember what they may have decided unconsciously or consciously to forget.”17

My book on militant education work relies on oral history through people’s testimonies to understand the past.18These ‘rebuilt’ memories were revealed to me by my interlocutors in various forms. Cape Verdean and Guinean Creole, Portuguese and English were the languages in which the liberation struggle memories were brought to their present life. It was left to the freedom fighters to choose their language of expression. The places where these memories were shared were also chosen by my interlocutors themselves, and our interviews took place in institutions, work places, living rooms, balconies, gardens and kitchen. Under such circumstances background like the clatter of dishes in the kitchen, cars passing in the street, phones ringing and birds chirping elements were included in the interviewrecordings. Children running outside or playing on the living room floor stopped to listen to their grandparents’ past experiences while neigbors passing by decided to stay for a while, hear the story , and perhaps raise a question. All of these aspects, while somewhat at odds with the notion of ‘clean’ data extracted in almost artificial conditions created an interview atmosphere in which the flow of personal histories could take place in an informal, yet still structured, setting.

Photographs, school manuals, meeting reports, maps and sounds, were always made available from me for consultation before and during the interview ←20 | 21→process, functioned as “sensory memory” triggers.19 Through the use of these materials, memories returned to my interlocutors and intensified during the course of the intreviewes. They experienced these recollections with great level of details including smells, tastes, sounds, physiological reactions, touch and images - information that unfortunately cannot be translated into words. However, with emotional memories, precise dates and times were not always accurately recalled. The absence of this accurately dates and times was justifird by my interlocutors with the secentece, “Because in a situation of war actions were more important than to write down dates and make notes.”20 However, this lack of specific information has much to do with the memories in later life and the memory lapses. 21


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (March)
Education Decolonial education Amílcar Cabral Liberatory education Africa Liberation movements
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien. 2019. 268 pp., 24 b/w ill., 10 b/w fig., 8 b/w tab.

Biographical notes

Sonia Borges (Author)

Sónia Vaz Borges is a militant interdisciplinary historian, social and political organizer. She has B.A. in Modern and Contemporary History, Politics and International Affairs from ISCTE -University Institute of Lisbon, and a M.A. in African History from the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Lisbon. She finished her Ph.D in History of education at Humboldt University of Berlin. She is also the editor of the booklets Cadernos Consciência e Resistência Negra (2007-2011) and author of the book Na Pó di Spéra. Percursos nos Bairros da Estrada Militar, Santa Filomena e Encosta Nascente (2014). Along with filmmaker Filipa César, Sónia Vaz Borges co-authored the short film Navigating the Pilot School (2016). Sónia Vaz Borges is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Place, Culture and Politics (CPCP) at the Graduate Center City University of New York and is working on her new research project focused on Errant Archives.


Title: Militant Education, Liberation Struggle, Consciousness:
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
267 pages