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Allyson Krupar

Subjugated Knowledge: Lifelong Learning and Well-Being in sub-Saharan Africa
Lifelong learning practitioners, policy makers, and participants debate whether the
central purpose of public involvement in education is to drive the economy forward, by 'skilling'
future workers or promote well-being, quality of life or human flourishing (Brighouse, 2008,
p. 59). The root of this debate in the research below focuses on how lifelong learning policies
and opportunities improve the well-being of individuals living in less developed nations. This
paper argues that the recognition of 'subjugated knowledges' (Foucault, 1980) of marginalized
people in the Global South can lead to an increased sense of self and more positive learner
identity at an individual and collective level and thus support well-being (Preece, 2009, p. 23).
Lifelong learning, then, must acknowledge subjugated knowledges to support marginalized
individuals' full expression of their identity. In order to situate lifelong learning, this paper first
reviews policies and programs from the literature through Global South perspectives from and
toward sub-Saharan Africa. The larger policy discourse is then analyzed through the UNESCO
Global Reports on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE) regional document on sub-Saharan
Africa in light of the respect for subjugated knowledges in policy. Finally, this paper explicates
assumptions regarding the relationship between well-being and 'subjugated knowledges' in
lifelong learning programs and policies.
Lifelong learning is a contested concept. The World Bank, UNESCO and other
perspectives from the Global North describe lifelong learning in terms of knowledge economies
and skills-for-work-based training (Gadotti, 2011; Torres, 2009). This Global North perspective
is not necessarily an appropriate conceptualization of lifelong learning in diverse settings. For
example, it does not include the value of indigenous ways of knowing and other subjugated
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knowledges that are left out of dominant educational paradigms and are outside of the
accreditation, credit, qualifications frameworks, and learners as consumers discourses (Preece,
2009, p. 4). Moreover, lifelong learning for knowledge economies neglects personal
development and well-being as a product of learning and education. Preece (2009) describes
lifelong learning in the Global South as helping people make sense of the world around them
to contribute to social development (p. 51). In this paper, lifelong learning is highly
contextualized as a concept. It is a practice that occurs throughout a learner's life and
environment(s), not only at certain ages, times or settings. Thus, lifelong learning could include
informal, non-formal and formal learning. Lifelong learning encompasses many different and
sometimes conflicting programs as described in programming and policy reviewed below.
Policy positions, such as those presented in the GRALE, use the lifelong learning
discourse to link the concept to its broad relevance in individual lives and national systems,
frequently claiming that the development of skills and qualifications improves well-being,
quality of life, and 'human flourishing.' This liberal and neoliberal view of lifelong learning
assumes that the learning individuals have access to will improve their economic well-being and
employment opportunities as well as larger local and national economic growth. In the neoliberal
and hegemonic concept of lifelong learning, policy is thought to promote well-being, quality of
life and 'human flourishing through economic development.
This paper focuses on well-being as a concept that centers on the objective such as human
rights, needs and capacities approaches (Sen, 1999) and the subjective such as the psychological
approach of individual satisfaction and happiness (Matrix Knowledge Group, 2009). Measuring
well-being includes measuring educational attainment, employment status, health, and other
objective indicators, as well as how individuals perceive their own well-being (Dolan & White,
2007). Well-being, then, is a term used to describe the intended results of lifelong learning which
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includes respect for human rights and building participatory local, national and international
systems. Lifelong learning that promotes well-being also develops individual agency to fulfill
capacity as described below, recognizes individual and community identity, as well as supports
individual flourishing in economic opportunity. Subjugated knowledges are inexorably linked
with well-being as these knowledges are part of individual and group identity that is repressed in
local, national and international hegemonic systems. This research will focus on well-being that
supports recognition of subjugated knowledges and supports marginalized peoples, be it
subjectively or objectively defining their well-being.
Literature Review
Situating lifelong learning outside of and in addition to formal education, the link
between policy and well-being is complicated by the diversity of lifelong learning in action.
Briefly, this literature review discusses the psychological position of well-being as related to
lifelong learning. Then, lifelong learning policies and well-being are situated in literature
dominated by quantitative studies of national indicators, from the Human Development Index
(HDI), UNESCO and World Bank reports. Finally, focusing on perspectives from the Global
South, the review explores examples of lifelong learning and impacts on well-being in the
Much literature defines well-being externally, looking at obective indicators such as
family structure, economic security, [and] access to health care, (Ostroff, S., Toole, L. O., &
Kropf, D. 2007). Well-being can also be defined through subjective indicators such as
happiness, positive affect, low negative affect, and satisfaction with life (Dodge, R., Daly, A.,
Huyton, J., & Sanders, L. 2012). In psychological, or subjective, perspectives, lifelong learning
plays a role in the maintenance of quality of life and well-being through individual satisfaction
and achievement of personal goals. There are multiple approaches to understanding individuals
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subjective view of well-being, such as Maslows hierarchy of needs:

Figure 1. Maslows hierarchy of human needs.

In this hierarchy, as well as other subjective understandings of well-being, there are specific
elements viewed as more essential than others. Lifelong learning both supports and directly
satisfies this needs based approach to well-being, especially when considering the recognition of
subjugated knowledges through focus on self-actualization and esteem.
The rationale behind a hierarchy of needs that must be satisfied for well-being includes
biological factors of learning, particularly the satisfaction of basic needs for survival. Keeling,
Dickson and Avery argue that lifelong learning and practitioners can support learners by
addressing diverse issues from untreated anxiety and depression to unsupportive home
environments to effectively support policy and practice for well-being (Keeling, Dickson and
Avery, 2011, p. 49). Lifelong learning can also address issues of love and belonging in
developing relationships within communities.
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Understanding well-being from a biological and needs based approach is almost an
historical artifact in the literature on learning according to Sen, who argues that much of the
needs based discourse emphasizes the consumption of goods, such as food and shelter, to
promote well-being (2012). The basic and biological needs approach does not adequately present
the width and scope of human experience in lifelong learning, instead the human capacities, or
the ability to attain self-defined achievements, are a better marker of well-being (Sen, 2012).
This also relates to Myles Horton's description of the purpose of learning and teaching as
helping people develop the capacity to make decisions and to take responsibility in their own
lives (Bell, Gaventa, Peters, Horton, & Freire, 1990, p. 125). The concept of agency, or decision-
making and strengthening of capacity, supports the argument here that lifelong learning must
acknowledge subjugated knowledges, without which marginalized peoples cannot fully live their
Further support for the inclusion of subjugated knowledges comes from Avosehs
analysis of lifelong learning in relation to indigenous African pedagogy (2001, p. 479).
Avoseh defines indigenous African pedagogy as a process that was by definition lifelong,
where learners and teachers switched roles depending on their experiences and contexts, and
where community involvement was prized. Community participation establishes an individual
as being truly human in this pedagogy, and thus directly relates to well-being through belonging
(Avoseh, 2001, p. 482). Lifelong learning has the potential to support well-being in relation to
these subjugated pedagogies through encouraging community participation that need not neglect
economic development (Avoseh, 2001).
The literature on lifelong learning to satisfy basic needs and capacities focuses on the
individual, yet policy and the larger lifelong learning discourse emphasizes national indicators.
In looking at lifelong learning for well-being using national indicators, the HDI as well as other
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data on indicators that could be linked to well-being clarify the individual perspective described
above. The HDI, a product of the United Nations Development Program, measures development
using health, education and living standards (Human Development Report, 2010). The HDI
acknowledges the need to identify multiple variables that define well-being, rather than just
economic well-being (Human Development Report, 2010). While the HDI endeavors to
approach well-being holistically, it continues to neglect education and lifelong learning outside
of the formal educational structures. Representing another avenue of knowledge subjugation, this
oversight excludes all educational experiences outside of primary, secondary and tertiary
schooling. More to the point, it excludes all individuals who do not have access to those formal
systems due to systemic, identity and place-based marginality. For example, individuals in sub-
Saharan African nations that do not have access to formal education due to the lack of schools in
the area in which they live. These individuals, marginalized by local and national governmental
systems and lack of access to educational opportunities, are not taken into account in the HDI.
Interestingly, the World Bank deemphasized these formal systems of education in their
report on lifelong learning for the knowledge economy (2003). Lifelong learning for the
knowledge economy, however, relies on the learner living in an industrialized nation who
participates in the knowledge economy. The World Bank makes no mention of well-being in
writing about lifelong learning, but does connect the concept to 'quality of life.' Individuals gain
specific competencies in order to have a high 'quality of life':
Acting autonomously: Building and exercising a sense of self, making choices
and acting in the context of a larger picture, being oriented toward the future,
being aware of the environment, understanding how one fits in, exercising ones
rights and responsibilities, determining and executing a life plan, and planning
and carrying out personal projects.
Using tools interactively: Using tools as instruments for an active dialogue; being
aware of and responding to the potential of new tools; and being able to use
language, text, symbols, information and knowledge, and technology interactively
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to accomplish goals.
Functioning in socially heterogeneous groups: Being able to interact effectively
with other people, including those from different backgrounds; recognizing the
social embeddedness of individuals; creating social capital; and being able to
relate well to others, cooperate, and manage and resolve conflict (World Bank,
2003, pg 21-22).

This conceptualization of competencies needed for high quality of life excludes individuals
whose access is constrained, who live in a world of structural violence and who lack the ability
to make choices.
The restrictions on individuals 'capacities,' or agency, is part of the postcolonial structures
in lifelong learning in sub-Saharan Africa. There are structures in place which limit not just
individual agency in their lives but also national growth. Lifelong learning, as a policy discourse,
does not address these structural obstacles in the literature. In the next section, this paper
explores specific examples of lifelong learning policy and practice in sub-Saharan Africa to
identify what is important in lifelong learning and who determines what is important in practice
regionally. The analysis of lifelong learning in practice and policy below is grounded in the sub-
Saharan Africa regional GRALE. This report was developed by researchers through the Institute
of Lifelong Learning (ILL) at UNESCO by compiling the country reports submitted to the ILL.
Country reports were submitted by member governments. As such, these documents present on
one side the national hegemonic power in each country and on the other, the national
postcolonial discourses in the international community.
Lifelong Learning in sub-Saharan Africa
The GRALE regional report on sub-Saharan Africa situates lifelong learning as a diverse
concept in different contexts throughout the region. Lifelong learning in terminology does not
have regional cohesion but includes knowledge, skills and attitudes required for social,
economic and political participation and transformation applicable to a range of contexts
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(Aitchison & Alidou, 2009, p. 19). This broad definition does not explicitly include or exclude
indigenous ways of knowing or other subjugated knowledges. Also, the regional report does not
link lifelong learning explicitly with well-being, referring only to the potential of programs to
address issues of well-being, without clearly defining the term (Aitchison & Alidou, 2009).
Considering the view of well-being that particularly emphasizes recognition of subjugated
knowledges for individuals to participate in the local, national, and international communities,
this section looks at how GRALE defines lifelong learning in sub-Saharan Africa and how
lifelong learning is implemented in programming in light of subjugated knowledges.
The report calls for standardization of lifelong learning across the region, in order to aid
understanding and comparability of data and research and prove empirically the influence of
lifelong learning (Aitchison & Alidou, 2009, p. 19). The authors also note current trends such as
certification, formalization, literacy programs and the creation of national qualifications
frameworks to encase lifelong learning (Aitchison & Alidou, 2009). Calling for curricula
revisions, the report suggests that lifelong learning needs a curriculum that is relevant in national
and international systems (Aitchison & Alidou, 2009). These shifts relate to philosophical views
of the purpose of lifelong learning, as formalized and within national and international credential
systems, and excluding informal learning. At the same time as governments formalize lifelong
learning, the GRALE regional document advocates for lifelong learning which integrates or
links formal, non-formal and informal education in an inclusive system, serving learners of all
ages (Aitchison & Alidou, 2009, p. 60). In an attempt to be all things, the GRALE document for
sub-Saharan Africa neglects to address specific issues of incorporating lifelong learning into
policy and supporting individual identities and competencies in local, national, and international
The duplicity of the GRALE document and lifelong learning policy reflects the failure of
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many governments to adequately define and develop national systems for lifelong learning, such
as the experience of policy makers in South Africa (Aitchison, 2004). Aitchison (2004) argues
that lifelong learning policy has been unsuccessful in South Africa due to political and
ideological histories. Overall, lifelong learning policy in South Africa has centered on
recognizing the value of non-formal education and combining the two settings through the
National Qualification Frameworks. Historically, the social, economic, and political divisions
under the apartheid government foreshadowed this combination and recognition, as many Black
South Africans were denied access to formal educational opportunities (Paasche, 2006). The
inequality within formal education led to a plethora of non-formal, non-governmentally
recognized programs. In post-apartheid South Africa, as institutional and workplace
discrimination decreased, non-formal education was recognized as valuable for the government
to bridge historical socio-economic divides. This institutional basis of lifelong learning in South
Africa signifies the problem addressed in this research, that subjugated knowledges have no
place in national and international policy in the Global South. Instead, policy focuses on lifelong
learning that fits within national and international institutional frameworks.
Programming such as Regenerated Freirian Literacy through Empowering Community
Techniques (REFLECT) also presents examples of lifelong learning. This program aims to
develop literacy while also drawing on Paulo Freire's approaches of problem posing and
community dialogue. The REFLECT program highlights some of these knowledges by
incorporating learners in the design and development of the curriculum. In the end, learners are
equipped with literacy skills that support their entry into larger systems of domination, such as
the hegemonic use of colonial languages, thus negating subjugated language knowledges.
Despite this, REFLECT is an example where using participatory methods subjugated
knowledges and identities can be discussed and supported through curriculum. REFLECT is an
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example of lifelong learning outside of the credential and institutionalized systems. However, a
criticism of this approach is its inability to be scaled to national programming and lack of
outcomes based evaluation (Torres, 2004). REFLECT, and other non-formal lifelong learning
programs in the Global South are faced with a mismatch in their aims. On the one hand
community led and participatory programming is embraced, while programs are then criticized
for being too localized and not able to be quantitatively evaluated. When subjugated knowledges
are incorporated in lifelong learning, programs are criticized for being too localized and non-
replicable, despite recognition that incorporating these knowledges into curricula promotes the
well-being of learners.
To understand lifelong learning from an African perspective, Lekoko and Modise argue
that lifelong learning must incorporate time, space, and the I/We concepts (2011, p. 9). These
concepts see lifelong learning as non-linear in the African perspective and do not follow an
institutionalized system of program completion and graduation to the next. Also, lifelong
learning must consider the space between the learner and the learned in terms of the content of
programs and curriculum to localize learning to the needs of the individual and community
(Lekoko and Modise, 2011, p. 10). Finally, lifelong learning must consider how Mbitis and
other African scholars identify identity in the African context; of 'I am because we are and since
we are, therefore I am' or the placement of the individual within their context and community
(Lekoko & Modise, 2011, p. 10; Mbiti, 1988, p. 106).
The space, time, and I/We knowledges are not reflected in South African policy or the
GRALE regional review of lifelong learning programs. In policy, there is an assumption that
lifelong learning must fit within international discourses about non-formal and formal education
settings which institutionalizes and verifies individuals' experiences of lifelong learning through
credentials and credits. This policy approach neglects the subjugated knowledges of people in
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sub-Saharan Africa, including indigenous language use and ways of individuals positioning
themselves within communities. Without acknowledgment of these subjugated experiences,
lifelong learning policy cannot work towards the well-being of learners.
As a discourse, lifelong learning can enhance well-being through supporting human
needs, community participation and identities. Through recognition of traditionally subjugated
knowledges in the lifelong learning discourse, policies can promote well-being including local
identities and incorporation of those identities into national and international systems. Economic
neoliberal constructs of well-being need not be discarded completely, but incorporated into a
discourse that promotes and respects indigenous ways of knowing and other traditionally
subjugated knowledges for the betterment of learners well-being. In moving towards holistic
lifelong learning for well-being, policy includes the institutionalized current policy that
emphasizes credentials as well as supports 'human flourishing' through acknowledging
subjugated knowledges, respecting postcolonial legacies and working towards overcoming
hegemonic systems.

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