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Transformative Learning | Global Citizenship

Our goal is for all students to experience holistic transformation during their study abroad time in Africa, and that they will become global agents of that change. We aim to encourage student growth in our five transformation learning goal areas: Intercultural Competence, Global Citizenship, Personal Growth, Intelectual Growth and Professional Development. Our Transformative Learning blog series dives deeper into each one of these areas.

What, to EDU Africa, is a Global Citizen?

While the term “global citizen” is used widely, there is often confusion as to what it means. It is worth noting that various definitions exist, but Karen O’Brian instructively describes it “as someone who holds a wide and inclusive perspective – one that erases the borders and barriers that humans have constructed between “us” and “them”. Global citizens embrace the world in all of its complexity, and have the capacity to see themselves in a wider context, as part of a larger whole.”1 Embracing this complexity includes understanding that social, political, environmental and economic policies and practices (however large or small) across the world are, in fact, interconnected, and can have far-reaching impact. In Value-creating Global Citizenship Education, Sharma adds an important element of rootedness and locality to the notion of global citizenship, arguing that the goal of being a global citizen is, ultimately, to be “rooted” in one’s local community, while “concerned with global issues that confront humanity.” 2

The term “global citizen” has come under attack in recent years for being entrenched in Western paradigms of individualization and hegemony, and, as Eric Hartman argues, “many who use the term ‘global citizen’ may actually [just] mean globally competitive capitalists who excel across cultures.” 3 At EDU Africa, we remain conscious of the dangers of global citizenship when used as a tool for homogenization and exploitation. Nevertheless, as we’ll explain below, we do feel the term, if applied critically, is a vital pillar of facilitating student transformation.

Why is Global Citizenship one of our Transformation Goals?

We believe that cultivating global citizens is one of the key ways to develop global “change agents” – students who, through their own personal transformations through study abroad, are inspired to enact positive social, economic, political, or environmental transformation in their own communities both at home and abroad. We believe that educating for global citizenship in our programs can, as Sharma explains, provide “the discursive space [to allow for] a genuine intercultural understanding of particularities and specificities where universal assumptions are [otherwise] being made”.4

How do our programs encourage Global Citizenship?

Our learning outcomes for Global Citizenship are for students: to critically analyze the interconnection of Africa and the rest of the world, and to demonstrate agency to be activists for social, political, economic and/or environmental justice.

In order to encourage student growth in global citizenship on our programs, we need to prioritize the excavation and analysis of power inequalities between students and the environments and communities they engage with. This is a complex process that changes depending on the positionality of students that are visiting us as well as the stakeholders they are engaging with, and requires us to employ intentional programmatic measures to move towards engagements where “power with others”, as opposed to “power over others”, is encouraged.5

An important part of facilitating student engagement with others on our programs is decentering the student’s role in the experience. Rather, the student experience should be situated within a recognition of wider interconnectedness, in so doing activating them to be agents of change with others (as opposed to “for” or “over”), either at home or abroad. Facilitating all of the above demands that we provide real opportunities for reflection where students think critically about their positions of identity, power and privilege. On a programmatic level, it also demands of us to prioritize multiple perspectives in our programs, for example by integrating panel discussions from various stakeholders, as well as providing different lenses from which to view social, cultural, historical and political events and experiences.6

Additionally, there is a strong environmental responsibility instilled in global citizens. For this reason, we educate our students to lessen their environmental footprint by reducing their plastic use, and being more conscious when traveling. We are constantly searching for ways to make our programs more environmentally sustainable, and encourage our students to think creatively about ways to join us on this quest.

Continuing the Transformative Learning Journey

Ultimately, we at EDU Africa see the world as interconnected. We also understand that those interconnections, now more than ever, are not equal, and are impacted by various factors. Developing socially responsible, environmentally sustainable, critical global citizens can be the catalyst the world needs for radical, world-wide transformation. On a more realistic scale, however, we are committed to global citizenship as an integral piece of the student transformation process, and remain co-investigators with our students on ways to probe the ideas, systems and phenomena that might stand in the way of ‘collaborative power’.

 

Bibliography

Hartman, Eric. “Global Citizenship Offers Better Solutions.” International Educator. May-June 2015: 74- 79.

O’Brian, Karen. “Global Citizens of the World Unite!” Global Citizen – Challenges and Responsibility in an Interconnected World. Ed. Aksel Braanen Sterri. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, 2014.

Sharma, Nurata. Value-creating Global Citizenship Education: Engaging Gandhi, Makiguchi, and Ikeda as Examples. Switzerland: Palgrave Publishers, 2018.

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