14 SES 06 B, Rural Schools as Hubs for the Socio-educational Development of the Community (Part 3)
Symposium continued from 14 SES 05 B, to be continued in 14 SES 07 B
“À Descoberta do Mundo Rural [Discovering the Rural World]” was a fifteen month-long project, a partnership between the Portuguese Institute of Educational Communities (ICE) and the Portuguese Association for Local Development (ANIMAR), financed by both national and European funds. Its purpose was to identify and give visibility to formal and informal local development initiatives, taking place in the rural context, in 26 Portuguese municipalities. It also aimed to present and discuss those which were considered “good practices” of local development in the rural context, granted that they: • Facilitated/promoted knowledge and critical thinking; • Promoted their member’s active participation, putting the actors in motion; • Fomented the construction of alternative future histories, favoring the existence of locally-based shared utopias; • Revealed the capacity to constantly inspire people and their actions, innovating in their own territories; • Promoted the rehabilitation of the local from the inside out, working the endogenous resources collectively, and exploring collective and individual memories. Throughout the duration of the project, the research team visited several municipalities and talked with the initiatives’ representatives, as well as other locally-relevant social actors, such as representatives of local governments, schools, associations, charity organizations, etc. Data was collected mostly through interviews, observation and questionnaires, while the research team also promoted gatherings (“tertúlias”), as well as debates and synergy-building meetings. Based on this information, a Good Practices’ Guide was produced, featuring data pertaining to twenty initiatives. The developmental processes that we were able to identify are themselves educational processes, of learning about, and enhancing, endogenous skills, resources and know-how. For the purpose of this paper, we will be focusing on how rural schools promote, participate in or otherwise contribute to the socio-educational development of the communities in which they are located. As many countries in the European periphery, Portugal has suffered the consequences of an aging population, and the abandonment of the countryside in favor of the larger, more cosmopolitan and more resourceful coastal cities. As birth rates drop, and young couples leave rural areas in search of better opportunities, many smaller schools close. In four of our case studies, we discuss how abandoned school buildings were rehabilitated and repurposed for the use of the community. In the other four case studies, we analyze how rural schools (at the initiative of their direction or staff) partake in initiatives that are focused on the promotion of local culture and heritage, arts, inclusion, etc.
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