ORA method & Ba’Aka children’s education

I have been researching and co-researching Ba’Aka children’s education since 2000.

My special area of interest is the ORA method and indigenous collective education (Ba’Aka forest education) based on the metaphorical letters of the forest alphabet (research project: “A child’s right to education as a condition and chance for its social emancipation. The state of education: diagnosis with ORA method among Bantu, Ba’Aka and Mbororo in Central African Republic “

Indigenous collective education -“forest education” is based on the philosophy, traditions and practical knowledge of the equatorial forest.  It is education which is organised and conducted purposely by the entire clan community. It encompasses the knowledge and skills related to navigating and living in the forest, modes of subsistence (gathering, hunting, production) as well as customs based on traditional beliefs in God – the creator, and forest spirits. Finally, it is connected with a rich tradition of communal rituals: singing, dancing, hunting, storytelling…  (more: Markowska-Manista, 2020).

Forest education is education organised and conducted purposefully by  adults belonging to a particular group. It not only relates to traditional modes of survival and customs of the Ba’Aka; it also teaches the awareness of and the skill of moving from the world of rainforest and the cosmology identified with it, to the world beyond the forest. It explains the principles of ecological balance and self-defence in threat situations, and specifies the ways in which one can rise to new challenges in the season-dependent environment of the rainforest (see: Markowska-Manista 2010: 399-400).

The concept of time of hunter-gatherers in their forest life “resides in concretes, returns as a cycle of household duties, as a sequence of the seasons of the year (…)” (Tarkowska, 1987: 58) and harmonises with Ba’Aka forest education, one which has never been written, but which emanates from all acts of the communal life of a group (see: Markowska-Manista, 2020).

The education which young Ba’Aka received (and which today still takes place, albeit on a smaller scale) in the forest (away from members of other ethnic groups), was based on oral transmission metaphorically known as the “letters of the forest alphabet” (see: Markowska-Manista 2010).

In the process of traditional everyday education, simple, practical rules of life were passed to children: connected with behaviour appropriate for man (being an element of a group, an integral unity and being an element of the nature) and fulfilling one’s duties towards nature, God, parents, family, neighbours and the community, as well as the forest, as one’s living environment.

Markowska-Manista U. (2019): Postcolonial dimensions of social work in Central African Republic and its impact on the life of hunter-gatherer children and youth. A critical perspective. In: Handbook on Postcolonial Social Work (Eds.) T. Kleibl, R. Lutz, Ndangwa Noyoo, Routledge the Taylor and Francis Group, London, ISBN 9781138604070,  DOI https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429468728,  pp. 286-301.

Markowska-Manista, U., (2020): Clarity about the purpose of research, In: P. Alderson, V. Morrow: The Ethics of Research with Children and Young People. Los Angeles: SAGE, Second Edition, ISBN 9781526477866

Markowska-Manista, U. (2014). Kolonialne i postkolonialne uwikłania łowców-zbieraczy w Afryce Środkowej. Przegląd Humanistyczny446(05), 33-45.

Markowska-Manista U. (2020). Ba’Aka children at the crossroads of traditional indigenous and modern education – reflections from field research in Central African Republic. In: Kleeberg-Niepage, A.; Ofosu-Kusi, Y.; Rademacher, S. & Tressat, M. (Eds). Children, Childhood, and the future. Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, ISBN: 978-1-5275-4251-8

Markowska-Manista U., (2018). The ethical dilemmas of research with children from the countries of the Global South. Whose participation? Polish Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. I (LXXI), pp. 51-65, DOI: 10.2478/poljes-2018-0005

Markowska-Manista, U. (2012). “Observe, Reflect and Act”–dziecięcym oknem na świat? wokół dylematów nauczania dzieci łowców-zbieraczy w Afryce Środkowej. Problemy Wczesnej Edukacji8(3 (18)), 60-71.

Markowska-Manista, U. (2016). “Invisible” and “unheard” children in fragile contexts–reflections from field research among the Ba’Aka in the Central African Republic. Problemy Wczesnej Edukacji12(4 (35)), 39-50.

Markowska-Manista, U. (2012). Obszary dyskryminacji i marginalizacji Pigmejów w Afryce Środkowej. In: Jarecka-Stępień K., Kościółek J. (eds.), Problemy współczesnej Afryki. Szanse i wyzwania na przyszłość, Wyd. Księgarnia Akademicka, Kraków.

Markowska-Manista U., (2020): The life of Ba’Aka children and their rights: Between the processes of poverty and deprivation. In: Lawson, D., Angemi, D., and Kasirye, I. (eds). What Works for Africa’s Poorest Children: From measurement to action, Rugby, UK: Practical Action Publishing http://dx.doi.org/10.3362/9781780448572

Markowska-Manista U. (2017): The written and unwritten rights of indigenous children in Central Africa – between the freedom of “tradition” and enslavement for “development”, w: Symbolic violence in socio-educational contexts. A post-colonial critique / Odrowąż-Coates A., S. Goswami (red.), APS, ISBN 978-83-64953-69-9, ss. 127-142.

Markowska-Manista, U. (2013). Nienormatywność epizodyczna i normatywność tradycyjna w relacjach rodzinnych Ba’Aka w obliczu przemian. InterAlia: Pismo poświęcone studiom queer, (8).

“I think that the future of Bayaka is strictly connected to the future of this forest. If we manage to preserve the forest in good condition, Bayaka’s future will be secured. They can participate in the modern life, attend school, become someone, learn something, but if they have the forest, they will be able to continue their traditional lifestyle which does not need to be incompatible with modern life. Without the forest, or if the forest is in bad condition, Bayaka’s future will be very difficult – they will live as slaves to the Central African society, they will work for meagre money, they will be exploited. […]
those who have come here […] were mainly interested in Bayaka’s  everyday life. […] It’s very difficult to find someone who is really interested in Bayaka, in the transformations taking place in their life and their future.” (Louis Sarno in conversation with Urszula Markowska-Manista, Yandoumbe, Central African Republic 2012). See: Markowska-Manista U. (2017): The written and unwritten rights of indigenous children…

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