2015 Volume 2015 Issue 50 Pages 24-44
This paper examines the effect of being Catholic on the development of the Fe y Alegría (Faith and Joy) movement in Peru and its rationale for using the term “Popular Education” in the sphere of schooling.
Fe y Alegría is an international non-governmental organization (INGO) led by the Society of Jesus, which works mainly in Latin America. Father José María Vélaz founded its first school in a shantytown of Caracas (Venezuela) in 1955.
One of Fe y Alegría’s well-known slogans is “Fe y Alegría starts where the pavement ends, where drinking water does not drip, where the city loses its name”. As this slogan suggests, Fe y Alegría started in a shantytown that was developed by migrants from rural areas. Especially after World War II, many people migrated from rural areas to the outskirts of the cities in Latin America. In these peripheral areas, missionaries preached the catechism to poor people, who were traditionally largely ignored by the Catholic Church. These activities gave birth to the Theology of Liberation in Latin America. Fe y Alegría was born in these circumstances.
Fe y Alegría provides formal education to more than 580,000 students and has more than 1,120,000 participants in total, including other programs, such as non-formal education and radio programs in 19 countries as of 2012. At present, Fe y Alegría schools are mainly public or subsidized-private, depending each country’s respective historical relationship with the Catholic Church. In Peru, under an agreement between Fe y Alegría and the Ministry of Education, teachers are employed in public schools whether or the school principal is religious.
Key factors behind the development of Fe y Alegría are its religious, national and international networks. Within its religious network, the Society of Jesus and many other religious congregations have assumed the management of schools. These contribute to the consistent implementation of educational policy among schools. The network of each religious congregation is effective in sharing experiences with members in other countries and to receiving donations from congregations or the country where the religious person was born.
At the international level, the International Federation of Fe y Alegría (Federación Internacional de Fe y Alegría: FIFYA) holds an annual congress to share experiences, information and ideals. At the national level, each country has a National Office that concludes agreements with each government to receive subsidies. In Peru, the National Office offers teacher training, original curriculum, and supervision by specialists. These mechanisms of support contribute to improve the quality of educational provision.
The religious network and Fe y Alegría’s international and national networks are interrelated. According to one secular school principal, there is no difference between Fe y Alegría schools led by religious authorities and those headed by secular school principals, because the Society of Jesus leads the network as a whole.
Considering the development of Fe y Alegría from the perspective of its philosophy, it defines itself as “the Movement of Popular Education and Social Promotion”. Popular Education in Latin America is influenced theoretically and methodologically by the work of Paulo Freire, and is generally considered to be in the field of adult and non-formal education. Popular Education is an educational mode for poor and socially oppressed people, not for the elites. It “raises learner’s political consciousness” for the goal of transforming society. In its philosophy, learners and educators should have horizontal relationships and the learners’ existing knowledge is considered to be important.
On the other hand, at the International Congress of FIFYA in 2001, Fe y Alegría described Popular Education as being defined by neither type of learner nor method, but (View PDF for the rest of the abstract.)