The Critical Villager Revisited: Continuing Transformations of Language and Education in Solomon Islands
More than a decade ago, when we wrote the “critical villager” paper that appeared in the first edition of Language Policies in Education: Critical Issues (Gegeo & Watson-Gegeo, 2002a; Tollefson, 2002), villagers in Kwara‘ae, Malaita, were claiming leadership in the direction of rural development and schooling. Some local teachers were using the Kwara‘ae language and indigenous cultural practices such as fa‘amanata‘anga (shaping the mind, teaching, counselling; Gegeo & Watson-Gegeo, 1999; Watson-Gegeo & Gegeo, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1999b) in classroom pedagogy. A large local research effort – the Kwara‘ae Genealogy Project on the Kwara‘ae language, falafala, and indigenous epistemology – was under way. But then violence erupted on Guadalcanal, the
location of Honiara, the national capital. Attacks by indigenous Guadalcanal islanders (Guales) on people of Malaita heritage living and working there forced 20,000 Malaitans to flee “back” to Malaita with their families. The trauma of the violence, and the social disruption caused by forced mass migration to an island many had never even visited, changed the political and policy landscape on Malaita. In this chapter, we discuss the continuing transformations in language and education on Malaita through the formation of new schools, and the rebirth of indigenous projects as a new generation of elders and adults seeks to address the problems of youth whose lives were dramatically altered by their experiences with armed conflict. Although traditional language forms were further undermined in the Tenson (ethnic conflict) period, Malaitans – including Kwara‘ae villagers – are reasserting their central cultural identity and the value of their indigenous language(s) and knowledge(s).