Participatory Pedagogy & Practice in Adult ESOL Literacy: A Needs Assessment of the Somali Bantu Refugees Resettled in Boston 2003-2005

Degree Name

MA in International and Intercultural Management

First Advisor

Ralph Meima


The present paper examines the experience of and assesses the educational and literacy needs of a group of refugees from Somalia of Bantu heritage resettled in Massachusetts during 2003-2005 under the sponsorship of The International Rescue Committee, the Massachusetts Office of Refugees and Immigrants and the United States Department of State.

The author situates a discussion of participatory pedagogy and practices within a Freirean paradigm, contrasts cultural deficit and cultural sensitivity models in theory and practice and attempts to build upon the participatory educational work of Elsa Auerbach, Gail Weinstein and Olivia Geiger. After briefly outlining Somali and Somali Bantu history and culture, the history of refugees and the international refugee legal regime beginning with the Holocaust, the League of Nations and the creation of the United Nations and the UNHCR, the author discusses refugee resettlement strategies and the work of one refugee resettlement agency’s Boston office.

The paper presents quantitative and qualitative data collected from personal interviews and surveys of participatory practitioners and Somali Bantu refugees. The data reflects the author’s efforts to identify the real needs of resettled Somali Bantu learners and some best practices in participatory and critical/transformative pedagogy. Finally, the author offers some conclusions regarding the current situation that these refugees face, recommendations for policy and practice, opportunities for further research and some personal reflections.


International and Comparative Education | International and Intercultural Communication | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Regional Sociology

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