[OPE-L] Silvia Federici & George Caffentzis, "CAFA and the 'Edu-Factory'"

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Mon May 07 2007 - 09:24:54 EDT


CAFA and the "Edu-Factory"

Silvia Federici and George Caffentzis

For about twenty years our relation to the edu-factory has been shaped
primarily by the experience we made first as teachers in African
universities (George at the University of Calabar from 1983 through 1987,
Silvia at the University of Port Harcourt from 1984 through 1986) and
later as members of CAFA (Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa), an
organization we helped to found after returning to the U.S.

Teaching in Nigeria was a life-changing experience at many levels. These
were years in which the country's social and political life was undergoing
a historic change, under the impact of the "debt crisis," of prolonged
negotiations with the IMF and, along with them, the introduction of the
first austerity plans. The universities were at the center of this process
and the resistance to it, both because of the intense debate and anti-IMF
mobilization they generated and because, from an early start, they were
one of the main targets of the cuts in public funds that were introduced
in the name of paying the debt.

Already by 1984, on many campuses, student protests --against the cuts of
student allowances and the repression of student activism--were the order
of the day. By 1986, when the government implemented the first structural
adjustment program (publicized however as a "homegrown" measure), the
confrontation between students and government had become open and the
student movement was more and more repressed by force. At least 30
students were massacred on May 5, 1986 in response to a peaceful
demonstration on the campus of Ahmadu Bello University (Zaria). By the
time we left Nigeria, the universities, when not shut down, were
battlefields, as the students, soon in collaboration with teachers'
unions, became one of the main opposition forces to structural adjustment
and the dismantling of public education demanded by the World Bank.

Having seen our students beaten, tear-gassed, expelled, it was inevitable
that on returning to the US we would organize around education in Africa.
We founded CAFA, in 1991, together with other colleagues, who, like us,
had left the country because they found it difficult to continue to work
there under the new SAP regime. Our objective was both to mobilize
students and teachers in North America in support of the student/teachers
struggles on the African campuses, and to denounce the World Bank's
program for education in Africa. It was clear, in fact, that the attack on
the schooling system carried out through World Bank-designed SAPs, was
part of a broader attack on African workers, and what many in Africa
defined as a re-colonization project.

More than a decade later, we see that our analysis was correct. The
dismantling of the African educational systems has had a strategic
importance in the expropriation by foreign investors and international
agencies of Africa's "natural" resources (from precious minerals to
genetic and pharmacological knowledge) and in the redefinition of the role
of Africans in the international division of labor as that of producers of
raw material and "cheap" labor power for the international market.

We chose the concept of "academic freedom" to name our organization,
despite its traditional elitist connotations, because of the new meaning
that was being given to it in the debates taking place on the African
campuses. While by the early 1990s, human rights organizations, like Human
Rights Watch, and the UN, were using the appeal to "academic freedom" to
blast governmental interference in African education, a gathering of
African educators and students, meeting in the capital of Uganda, issued
the Kampala Declaration, in which academic freedom was identified with
"the right to study," i.e. the right to have access to the means of
knowledge production and circulation. We adopted the same idea because it
allowed us to turn the table and argue that the true violators of academic
freedom were the World Bank and the international "donors," that soon
joined the Bank in its efforts to restructure the African schooling system
(through the introduction of user fees, the gutting of public investment
in education, the promotion of international NGO programs aimed at
training a body of technocrats sensitive to the requirement of economic
liberalization-- the whole project paraded under the ludicrous and racist
title of "Africa Capacity Building.")

CAFA never succeeded in spurring on the North American campuses the type
of mobilization we had envisaged. With few exceptions, the response to the
anti-SAP students' and teachers' struggles in Africa has been tepid at
best. Several US universities have even capitalized on the de-funding of
Africa's tertiary educational system, through the boom of study abroad
programs that have often brought North American students to campuses that
had been shut down by strikes or by government cuts. However, despite its
failure to mobilize the North American campuses, we think that CAFA has
made important contributions to the struggle over education in Africa:

*For more than a decade, the CAFA newsletters have documented the
experiences of student and teachers' struggles and organizations on
various African campuses, collecting and circulating information about
strikes, demonstrations and other forms of protest, in addition to
publishing and circulating some of the materials they produced. Through
this activity, CAFA has been a vehicle through which people in and out of
Africa have first become aware of the existence of an African-wide
student/teachers movement and of the role of education in the
restructuring of African political economies.

**CAFA was used by teachers' and students' unions and associations in
Africa to get their political demands and materials "out" to student and
educators abroad, and later to the "anti-neoliberal globalization"
movement that began in the mid-1990s. In this process, the experience of
CAFA was instrumental to generating a type of North/South cooperation that
we now see as indispensable in all our political work. (CAFA's last
collaboration effort was the co-production of a book edited by Richard
Pithouse, Asinamali: University Struggles in Post-Apartheid South Africa
(Pithouse 2006), that brings the story of South African university
struggles to the larger "movement of movements").

***Because of its cooperation with edu-activists in Africa, for more than
a decade CAFA has provided an ongoing analysis of (a) the policies of
international financial institutions (especially the World Bank) and the
African states with regard to education in the context of the
restructuring of the global economy, and (b) the implications of these
policies for Africa's economic, political and social life. Our analysis
has particularly focused on:

-the World Bank's "adjustment" of education in Africa; its impact on
Africa's schooling system from primary to tertiary; its function within
the restructuring of Africa's political economy, class relations, and
place in the "global economy" and international division of labor;
-the connection between the demise of the African university system and
the difficulty African countries face in protecting their "intellectual
property rights" from gene-hunters and pharmaceutical prospectors;
-students' and teachers' organizations and struggles and the state attacks
against them;
-the adjustment of educational system in Africa in the context of the
increasing "globalization" and commercialization of education and culture
(with the formation of "global universities, on-line education, for profit
-the structural adjustment of African educational system and the migration
of African labor, starting with the migration of African youth to Europe
and North America.

Organizations should not perpetuate themselves once the objectives for
which they were formed have been achieved or the conditions that made them
possible no longer exist. This is why since 2004, we have suspended the
publication of the CAFA newsletter and we are presently rethinking the
project that has sustained CAFA's work. It is clear to us that the
struggles to stop the structural adjustment process have been defeated;
the restructuring of African universities along more divisive class lines
has passed. Many student and teachers organizations (especially those
which were crucial reference points for CAFA's work) have been
criminalized and, in many cases, destroyed. African universities today
operate on a two or three-tier basis, each with different sponsors,
funding (or lack of) and goals. Some units that are financed directly by
foreign "donors" for their own commercial purposes are well equipped while
other literally next door are left to disintegrate. Thousands of former
students and activists have been expelled, many have migrated abroad, some
now employed in foreign universities, most working on assembly-lines or in
garages or in distribution networks in Europe or the US. At the same time,
"la luta continua." Campus enrollment in Africa has not decreased, though
campus education often has little to offer, and new forms of struggles are
emerging. Most important, the kind of adjustment of education that we
first observed in Africa, in different ways, has now become a reality
across the world, including Europe and North America. This means that new
possibilities open up, encouraging new organizational projects.

Indeed, we are more than ever convinced that the universities are a
crucial site of resistance and struggle and are interested in connecting
with the experiences you have made as edu-activists, especially in the
fight against the commodification of education and its restructuring along
elitist lines. We are also interested in exploring how to expand/, create,
support alternative forms of education within and outside the present
institutions, and connecting with edu networks/projects/ organizations
working on education and gender.

Meanwhile, we are reconstructing our website where we will soon post a
complete set of CAFA Newsletters and other relevant articles and
documents. We are also organizing an archive with the materials produced
by African teachers/students organizations (journals, bulletins, petitions
etc.) that we will make available to anyone who wishes to consult it.

Last, we include a Code of Ethics we formulated in collaboration with a
number of African edu-activists, motivated by the irresponsible way in
which North American educators often behaved when going to African
campuses. We had no illusion that it would halt this kind of behavior, but
we found it a useful consciousness-raising tool.

Globalization and Academic Ethics

The Coordinators of the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa
[Published in (Federici, Caffentzis and Alidou 2000: 239-241]

One of the consequences of economic globalization has been the
internationalization of US higher education institutions and universities.
International studies, study abroad programs, international cultural
exchanges have become a "must" on most American campuses. In the last
decade, a number of major U.S. educational organizations have asked that
"provisions should be made to ensure that at least 10 percent of all
students who receive baccalaureate degrees in this country will have had a
'significant educational experience abroad during their undergraduate
years.'"(See Michael R. Laubscher, Encounters with Difference: Student
Perceptions of the Role of Out-of-Class Experiences in Education Abroad
(Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 1994)). Equally momentous have been the
efforts by U.S. administrators and funding agencies to turn American
academic institutions into "global universities," i.e. global educational
centers, recruiting from and catering to an international student body.

We have also witnessed the growing engagement of US academicians and
colleges in the restructuring of academic institutions in Africa, Asia,
Latin America and the former socialist countries, and the management in
these same regions of private, generally English speaking universities,
unaffordable for the majority of aspiring students.

All these developments constitute the most substantial innovation in US
academic life over the last decade. They have been promoted and hailed as
a great contribution to the spread of "quality education" and global
citizenship. The reality, however, may be quite different. We call on our
colleagues to ponder on the implications of these changes, especially for
African universities, and to oppose the mercenary goals that often inspire
them. Consider the following :

1. The internationalization of the curriculum and academic activities is
often conceived within a framework of global economic competition that
turns multicultural awareness into a means of neo-colonial exploitation
rather than a means of understanding and valorizing other people's
histories and struggles.
2. As the National Security Education Program (NSEP) has demonstrated, the
Pentagon and the CIA are the most prominent government agencies promoting
and financing the internationalization of U.S. academic education. This
prominence is inevitable since they, more than ever, need a cosmopolitan
personnel at a time when the U. S. government is openly striving for
economic and military hegemony in every region of the world.
3. The globalization of U.S. universities has been facilitated by the
underdevelopment of public education throughout the Third World, upon
recommendations of the World Bank and IMF in the name of "rationalization"
and "structural adjustment."
4. In some African countries where universities have been shut down, the
idle facilities are often used by American study abroad programs. These
programs benefit from the cheap cost of study, and the program directors
can even hire at very low wages laid off teachers and former students as
5. U.S. teachers and college administrators are being financed by USAID to
intervene in several third world and former socialist countries to (a) set
up private universities; (b) restructure entire departments, schools,
programs, curricula. In other words, U.S. academics are being presently
employed by the U.S. government to carry on cultural/educational work
abroad that suits its economic, political, ideological objectives.

Considering the above developments, we believe that the time has come for
U.S. academics to show our colleagues in Africa and other third world
regions the same solidarity that would be expected of us by colleagues on
our own campuses.

It is in this context that we are proposing the following "University
Teachers Code of Ethics for Global Education in Africa." We urge you to
circulate it among colleagues in the institutions where you work, at
conferences, and other academic events and ask people to comment upon it.
Please send your comments to one of the coordinators of CAFA as soon as
possible. They will help us in the coming months to construct a final code
of ethics that can be subscribed to by a substantial number of people
involved in "global education in Africa." We intend to present the code to
the organizations involved in financing or overseeing global education
initiatives as well. Even more important, we want to use this
declaration--amended as it might be--to promote solidarity with our
African colleagues and campaign to reverse the recolonization of African

University Teachers' Draft Code of Ethics for Global Education in Africa

We are university teachers and we publicly declare our adherence to the
following principles of academic ethics in our work in Africa:

--we will never, under any circumstance, work (as researchers, with a
study abroad program, or in any other capacity) in an African university
where students or the faculty are on strike or which has been shut down by
students' or teachers' strikes and protests against police repression and
structural adjustment cut backs.

--we will never take a position at or cooperate with the World Bank, the
IMF, USAID, or any other organization whose policy is to expropriate
Africans from the means of the production and distribution of knowledge
and to devalue African people's contribution to world culture.

--we will never take advantage of the immiseration in which African
colleagues and students have been reduced, and appropriate the educational
facilities and resources from which African colleagues and students have
been de facto excluded because of lack of means. Knowledge acquired under
such conditions would be antagonistic to the spirit of multiculturalism
and scholarly solidarity.

--we will consult with colleagues and activists in the countries where we
carry on research, so as to ensure that our research answers the needs of
the people it studies, and is shaped with the cooperation of people whose
lives will be affected by it, rather being dictated by funding agencies'

CAFA's Materials
While we are restructuring our website we will be glad to send you by slow
email or slow mail copies of our bulletins and other articles we and other
CAFA people have written, as well as copies of documents from
students/teachers organizations in Africa.

Cafa materials have also been collected in:

Federici, Silvia, George Caffentzis and Ousseina Alidou (eds.) 2000. A
Thousand Flowers: Social Struggles Against Structural Adjustment in
African Universities. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.

CAFA has also helped produce the following account of recent university
struggles against structural adjustment in South Africa:

Pithouse, Richard (ed.) 2006. Asinamali: University Struggles in
Post-Apartheid South Africa. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.

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