Dorze Weaving in Ethiopia : A Model of Education for Sustainable Development?

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för pedagogik, didaktik och utbildningsstudier


The aim of the study is to analyse the learning process of the Dorze weaving in Ethiopia and its implications on Education for Sustainable Development, ESD. My two main questions are: 1. How do the Dorze understand their learning process in weaving? 2. What conclusions concerning education for sustainable development applied on textile handicraft can be drawn from the findings of my case study?  

In order to answer these questions I have made a field study on the Dorze (the weavers) in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia for 10 weeks. The study has a socio-cultural and narrative approach and the method used are interviews, observations and review of documents. The result is presented in a “metastory” where I retell the stories and introduce the results of the study and that gives answers to question 1. UNESCO’s recommendations on ESD are used to analyse the findings and give the answer to question 2.

The result shows that the learning process depends on the environment with its people, who have gathered knowledge of raw material and techniques for generations but the latter also needs to develop to meet new challenges. “Shiro Meda” is the centre of learning. To grow up in “Shiro Meda” it becomes natural to work with textile production, accept a special lifestyle with clear gender differences and a hierarchical structure. The educational model of spinning and twisting are “learning by doing”, whereas young boys start practising weaving under the leadership of an older teacher step by step.  

From an ESD perspective the Dorze education is holistic, practical, individualized, and contains some problem solving even if the students are not participating in decisions on how they learn. The education is highly integrated in the daily life of the weaving community and is also relevant to the surrounding local community. Moreover the education transfers a historical legacy of cultural continuity, and has shown itself to be dynamic and adaptable to change. A weakness in this traditional knowledge system is the low profit the weavers are making and the set hierarchical and gender rules which need to be developed in order to be sustainable for future challenges.

The final discussion highlights the relevance of my findings for a Swedish learning context.

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