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Using Photographs in the Development Education Classroom

Using Photographs

At first glance, it looked like a straightforward class. The teacher wrote the word ‘sustainability’ on the board and asked did anyone know what the word meant. She jotted down some of the key words that emerged from the students’ responses. Then she produced a large pack of photographs, mounted on coloured card and laminated. She randomly assigned 10 photos to each pair of students. ‘I want you to agree between yourselves on two photographs that illustrate the idea of sustainability’. Lively discussions ensued. Indeed, the teacher was eying the clock because she wanted the students to listen to the choices made by their classmates.

Some days later, one of the students brought in two photographs from magazines. One was of a dried up river bed with emaciated cattle nearly, the other of a river bursting its banks and flooding people’s houses. ‘I think they show how we need to manage resources in the world’, remarked the student. Encouraged by this the teacher then suggested that students build a photo exhibition on the topic of sustainability. They responded enthusiastically. Along the way, the teacher estimated that there were hundreds of informal discussions between herself and individual students and among the students themselves on global justice issues. The following term, the teacher asked the students to nominate a development education topic. They suggested ‘education’. Photographs of classrooms around the word became a central feature of the work and many wish themes associated with ‘development’ and ‘education’ were explored. Some of the photos in the subsequent exhibition in the school were taken by the students themselves.

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