Developing capabilities of the heart and the mind: digital storytelling and a tool for social justice education
Digital Storytelling and
Social Justice Education
Daniela Gachago (@dgachago17),
Janet Condy, Eunice Ivala, Agnes Chigona
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Western Cape, South Africa
Digital storytelling for social change
We listen to stories
in order to be changed(Krog, Mpolweni, Ratele 2009)
• Successfully / socially just
democracy should be judged on
the freedom she offers individuals
and the ability to ‘do valuable acts
or reach valuable states of being.’
(Sen 2007, p. 270)
• Capabilities are the real and actual
freedoms (opportunities) people
have to do and be what they value
being and doing (Sen, 1992, 1999; Nussbaum, 2000)
• Potential to achieve functionings
• Feminist philosopher
• Passionate defender of Humanities
• Focus on emotions
• Founder of Human Development and
• ‘I argue that capabilities can help
us to construct a normative
conception of social justice, with
critical potential for gender
issues, only if we specify a
definite set of capabilities as the
most important ones to protect’
• Every modern democracy is also a society in
which people differ greatly along many
parameters, including religion, ethnicity,
wealth and class, physical impairment, gender,
and sexuality, and in which all voters are
making choices that have a major impact on
the lives of people who differ from
Nussbaum, M. C. 2010. Not for profit - why democracy needs the
Humanities, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
• …while it is important for education to teach
skills and capabilities that will promote
learners employability, it is equally important
that learners are taught the skills to live in
societies that are increasingly diverse and
complex (Nussbaum, 2010, p. 9)
Learning to live with difference!
1. students’ capacity to see the world from the viewpoint of other
2. to teach attitudes toward human weakness and helplessness
that suggest that weakness is not shameful ;
3. teach children not to be ashamed of need and incompleteness but
to see these as occasions for cooperation and reciprocity, to
develop the capacity for genuine concern for others,
4. to undermine the tendency to shrink from minorities of various
kinds in disgust,
5. to teach real and true things about other groups, so as to counter
stereotypes and the disgust that often goes with them,
6. to promote accountability by treating each child as a responsible
7. and to promote critical thinking, the skill and courage it requires
to raise a dissenting voice (Nussbaum, 2010, p. 45).
New list of capabilities for a healthy
• The silence of individuals or members of a
community in any given society is one of the
greatest obstacles to achieving equality (Tyler & Smith, 1995, Chong,
• …absence of a public voice in a context that is
experienced as culturally imperialistic,
particularly in educational settings that form a
reflection of society at large (Freire, 2000)
• translates into a lack of social presence – an
invisibility that plagues those who do not form
part of the “mainstream” or the “norm” (Morrow & Torres, 2002)
Culture of silence
• Culture of silence can also refer to the lack of
public awareness, acknowledgment and
dialogue on sensitive issues and abuses such
as domestic or sexual violence, drug abuse,
the contraction of HIV, disability, etc (Goldman, 2001)
• Stemming from shame that is associated with
these experiences and reinforcement of
cultural norms into pubic which is considered
Culture of Silence
• The culture of silence is
– the marginalisation from
mainstream society and
with it the absence of a
– as well as the unspoken
nature of social issues and
abuses (Goldman, 2001)
– > Clear obstacle towards
toward social justice
2 dimensions of culture of silence
• ‘Creating and sharing digital
stories is one way that this can
be achieved as it not only
captures the experiences and
hopes, but also shares them
with a wide and diverse
audience, thereby establishing a
social presence.’ (Thumbran, 2010: 18)
Breaking the silence
• 2013 fourth year ISP Education students
• Diverse class: 74 students
– Gender: 31% male and 69% female
– Language: 28% isiXhosa speaking, 61% English
speaking and 11% Afrikaans speaking
– Race: 28% African, 12% White and 60% Coloured
• Development of digital story on one social
issue in Education they feel passionate about
• Link of bigger issue with personal story
• Interpretative / critical research approach
• 4 focus group conversations, 27 students
(Daniela, Janet, Chantyclaire and Eunice)
• Self selected, diverse groups
• Small groups: safe space for conversations
• …to create a less intimidating, more gratifying
and stimulating space for students than is
possible, for example, in a one-to-one interview
• Thematic and narrative analysis
• Start of the analytical
• What is a narrative?
What are boundaries of
• Narratives as poems (Miles and
Huberman 1994: 110)
Transcription and representation of
I think teachers are part of socialization process.
So we have got to do what government wants,
We gotta inform society which is broken to a large extent.
Many of the townships in South Africa,
many of the areas in Cape Flatlands
have been left like that
to malfect, to get to malform.
And you know: as teachers we do have to try
and correct those errors
but we are not the monument of society.
Yet we can be a conscience of society.
But society at its smallest level
emanates from the family unit
and that is broken.
Working in a broken society
capabilities for social
I think that’s exactly
what we are experiencing
when we did our own digital stories
even as grown ups and adults
and people who are out of school,
we were able to learn about other people
and discover things
that we might not have ever imagined
that he thought or felt or viewed the world that way
I think its very it’s a very eye opening experience.
(Student 1, Chantyclaire’s Group)
I could hear just in the tone of her voice –
it was just so emotional
and she was just so proud of her sister
and in the way she portrayed her sister in there
and this relationship they have with each other.
I could see that there is such an unbelievable human bond.
Because I could just hear it in your voice you know.
You are passionate a lot of times about things
that you, you have this, you know,
you are almost like me when you are passionate,
there is almost a bit of anger that you manifest,
but there it was unbelievably warm
and I just felt that resonating
when you spoke about that bond that you have.
(Student 6, Danielas’s Group)
C2: importance of vulnerability and emotions
– 19 quotes
One thing that it has done to me
is that I am more sensitive towards people.
I am not a very patient person
and I don’t can I say tolerant nonsense, yeah.
But I am more sensitive towards people now,
especially the stories that I have heard in my group.
It has touched me so deeply
that I have tried to practice tolerance towards people
I try to be more patient
and I try to act sensitively toward everybody,
they know, anyway I tease them always.
After this digital story I realized
that we need to practice more sensitivity towards others
because I might it find funny, I sometimes still do
but she doesn’t.
(Student 3, Daniela’s Group)
I would do it at the beginning of the year,
because at the beginning of the year,
it’s a new year,
especially if they are going from one phase to the next,
so there’s not always the same people in your class,
especially if you are moving from primary school to high school.
Then you don’t know anybody in your class,
and it’s a nice way for them to actually show:
This is who I am.
Before you judge me and put this stigma on me,
this is who I am, and if you can’t accept this,
I would like you to and respect me for it.
Even if you can’t accept I would like you to respect me for who I am.
(Student 4, Janet’s Group)
Now the story has been watched by the whole class,
So when they go back to the classroom,
they’ll feel like some of the children
are still thinking about what she told
or what he told in the story.
And I think they will have mutual respect in the classroom
because they now know their situations
and they now have seen their challenges,
their common challenges and their different challenges.
(Student 6, Janet’s Group)
It is very very hard for us as...
I mean its not impossible,
we can make a difference, we are agents of social change
but there are so many social issues that our kids are plagued with;
first , drugs, drug abuse …
kids are coming to school
who just don’t have the capacity to be trained academically
and then obviously I mean in any society,
there is you know there is a whole lot of prestige
placed on that gangsterism mentality you know.
There is value that is where people would rather view you know
those who display such qualities as being fitting or something to aspire to.
So there, its really hard to reason with kids.
But we can never give up as educators.
We absolutely have to try.
There really is a lot against us
because society has been left for so long just to degenerate.
(Student 6, Daniela’s group)
I think in the beginning
when I came to the teaching
I had a totally different view point of what teaching is
And it was a lot of negative aspects though,
but I think the digital story has really helped me
to look beyond the negative aspect of teaching
and actually focus more
on what you as an individual can do for the students.
Not just looking at your classroom
but also broadening your spectrum
and looking at society within your country.
I think it really about me more positively at teaching.
(Student 3, Daniela’s group)
Listening to the other people’s stories,
I felt like, if I want to make a change, it starts with me.
I need to be able to be that role model.
I need to be able to be that person the learners look up to,
to be able to make sure
that my generation does not allow the next generation
to go through what we’ve had to go through
in terms of racism because of our parents.
I can’t really control what happens inside of a home
but I can control what happens inside of the classroom
no matter what has happened at home.
If they work hard enough,
if I give them the right support
and if I let them know that, yes, you know,
there are bad things that happen in life
but look how much good has come out of it.
Benefits of model
• Evidence of capabilities listed by Nussbaum (2010)
• Strong focus on capability to connect
• Power of the humanities (Nussbaum 2010, Walker 2003)
• Power of creativity / constructionism
• Allowing students to envisage a better future
• Strong focus on personal capabilities / agency
• High confidence among students /recognition:
subtle change in a long history of subjugated identities and a country that is still
characterised by low self-esteem of the formerly oppressed (Soudien 2013)
Discussion – benefits of model
• DST as social pedagogy: Create awareness among
privileged students about voicelessness of
marginalised individuals (Benmayor 2008)
• Voicing of ‘counterstories’, breaking silence
on some ‘tabus’, but not all (Solorzano & Yosso 2002)
• Certain stories more easy to tell for certain
students – emotions as site of social control(Boler 1999)
• Capabilities beyond classroom, for real life:
develop an education system that works with capabilities that are valuable in the
full range of social spaces young people inhabit and not just the capabilities valued
by markets looking for readily deployable skills (Soudien 2013: 55)
Focus on the individual
• Strong sense of individual agency within
oppressive system/society - strong mistrust of
parents / school / government
• Sense of meritocracy: as long as you work
hard, you will achieve … (Solorzano & Yosso 2002)
• But no real sense of being able to effect
• Danger of high disappointment when entering
I just want to say now that:
It gives me hope for the future in South Africa
because looking at the 51 teachers
that are moving out of here next year.
A lot of them identified social issues
but not just identify …
they have actually given proactive suggestions
to what is happening,
how to better those issues that our country is facing
I think that itself is hope right there.
That there people that are thinking of way, improvements,
I think that is why they are people out there
who want to make a difference in the community
even if it is just one change there its like one change that can make changes
Start of a collective sense of capability?
Limitations of model
• Need to understand how individual
capabilities work within systemic structures ->
need for collective capabilities which benefit
the collective (Ibrahim 2006)
• Lack of focus on power? (Walker 2003)
• Critical engagement with world? (Soudien 2013)
• Safe spaces for critical inquiry – follow up
needed? Converting capabilities into
functionings (Wilson-Strydom 2011)
• While we readily agree, that social justice in education is a matter
that should be tackled on a global and macroeconomic level for and
foremost as individual educators we have a role to play. And
projects such as these, even if only providing a small patch in the
larger clothes that is social justice education in South African and in
the world, it is a necessary patch and will work as part of this cloth
towards making the world a slightly better place, ‘education both as
and for democratic citizenship’ (Walker, 2003, p. 170).
• Change might not necessarily be affected immediately or in even in
the life of a storyteller who shares their experiences, but the mere
fact that it is being highlighted can mobilise action from others with
similar experiences and hopes for the future (Thumbran, 2010: 18)
• Benmayor, R. (2008). Digital storytelling as a signature pedagogy for the new humanities. Arts and Humanities in Higher
Education, 7, 188–204. Boler, M. (1999). Feeling power: Emotions and Education. New York: Routledge.
• Chong, D. (2001). Collective Action and the Civil Rights Movement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
• Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Continuum. Goldman,
• Goldman, L. (2001). Breaking the Silence, 2nd ed. New York: Brunner-Routledge
• Ibrahim, S. S. (2006). From Individual to Collective Capabilities: The Capability Approach as a Conceptual Framework for Self-
help. Journal of Human Development, 7(3), 397–416. Morrow, R.A. & Torres, C.A. (2002). Reading Freire and Habermas –
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Khonile. Scottsville: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.
• Madriz, E. (2003). Focus groups in feminist research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Collecting and interpreting
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• Nussbaum, M. C. (2010). Not for profit - why democracy needs the Humanities, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University
• Nussbaum, M. C. (2000). Women and human development: the capabilities approach. Cambridge, New York, Melbourne,
Madrid, Cape Town, Singopore, Sao Paolo: Cambridge University Press.
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apartheid Young South Africa. Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning, 1(1), 53–79. Thumbran, J. K. (2010). Digital
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• Solorzano, D. G., & Yosso, T. J. (2002). Critical Race Methodology: Counter storytelling as an Analytical Framework for
Education Research. Qualitative Inquiry, 8(1), 23–44.
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Employment, University of California, Berkeley.
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and Humanities in Higher Education, 8(3), 227–242.
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