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Burning Questions 2020

Decolonizing Education

Jan 16-17



Last year, Burning Questions was successfully launched and gave participants the opportunity to question their educational assumptions. An event that dared to challenge our most fundamental perceived truths about education. Why do we educate children in schools? Is the purpose of education to learn about society or to question it? Does education need teachers?


The aim of BQ has always been to maximise the freedom for critical discussion, learning from each other and the exchange of ideas and questions. No powerpoints, no top-down lectures, just participation and reflection. Participants were invited to bring ‘Burning Questions’ of their own to the event, which were then shared in advance, collated and explored throughout the two days. This was to ensure that everyone at BQ was a learner & a participant by bringing formal and informal learning into the same space. We also inspire and encourage participants to continue to develop new models of education post-conference.

This year’s event examines education through a decolonial outlook. Colonialism continues to have deep residual effects on many parts of today’s society, from architecture to knowledge production. Therefore, concepts of coloniality and decoloniality are critical to consider in the scope of education. According to Latin American scholar Walter Mignolo, “Decoloniality means first to delink (to detach) from that overall structure of knowledge in order to engage in an epistemic reconstitution. Reconstitution of what? Of ways of thinking, languages, ways of life and being in the world that the rhetoric of modernity disavowed and the logic of coloniality implement.”

Using Mignolo’s framework, Burning Questions 2020 aims to critically reflect on mainstream Western concepts and perspectives on educational practices and innovations. The event will be composed of participatory, critical and experimental workshops focusing on exploring topics from a more practical and pragmatic perspective. 

Participants will explore decoloniality through workshops encompassing learning environments, technology, sustainability, and pedagogy. They will encounter unexpected perspectives which will challenge them to question their worldview and be part of the break-away from colonial patterns.

Students, teachers, researchers, educational leaders and stakeholders are warmly invited to join the student-led event Burning Questions 2020 at the University of Oulu. It’s time to question our fundamental assumptions about education. So please join us in the far North and be involved in the change that is happening. The only thing we guarantee is more questions than answers.

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Faith Mkwesha


Dr. Faith Mkwesha (PhD) is a researcher at Helsinki University (Sweddish School of Social Sciences - Centre of Ethnic Relations and Nationalism) and also teaches Contemporary research: decolonising knowledges course there.  She also teaches courses in Black and African feminism, Gender and African sexuality and Postcolonial literature. She gives public lectures on decolonisation and decoloniality in different fields in Finland. She is the founder and Director of Sahwira Africa International ry.

She is in the field of Literary and Cultural Studies using postcolonial, decolonial, gender and feminist perspectives. She has been a lecturer in universities in South Africa in Literature and Culture and Zimbabwe in Education and Languages. She is a passionate advocate for black girls/boys and women's rights, and taking African people out of poverty. She is an activist and launches campaigns and advocacy work to influence policies on issues like representation and racism that affect the minority and the marginalized in Finland.  She co-ordinates a  multiracial and multicultural youth project at Sahwira Africa Resource Centre she founded in Turku. She also co-ordinates cultural activities for African, Black Immigrant and Refugee women and girls with Minority background.  She is also a social and political  media commentator on issues in Africa and Finland.


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Leonardo Custódio

Leonardo Custódio, PhD, is an Afro-Brazilian postdoctoral researcher at Åbo Akademi University. He is the co-coordinator of the Anti-Racism Media Activism Alliance (ARMA, Kone Foundation) and co-coordinator of the Activist Research Network. His most recent book is 'Favela Media Activism: Counterpublics for human rights in Brazil' (2017, Lexington Books).


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Meeri Hellstén


Meeri Hellstén is Associate Professor in International and Comparative Education and she teaches on the Master Program with the same title. Her research focuses on international higher education from a comparative perspective on pedagogy, policy and practice. She has published two collections on the topic of internationalising higher education and is particularly interested in professionalisation among international scholars, and the ways in which it impacts on cross-cultural and transdisciplinary pedagogy, policy and practice. She has collaborated  in a large international research project investigating ethical internationalization in higher education (EIHE) under the leadership of Prof. Vanessa Andreotti funded by the Academy of Finland. 


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Boby Mafi

Boby Mafi, MA (Education), is a PhD researcher at the University of Oulu. His research examines discourses of denial of racism in electronic social media, their embeddedness in the colonial matrix of power and how teacher education can be used as tool to interrupt these discourses and concomitant practices. His research interests include post-colonial studies, poststructural studies, intercultural education and ethics.  


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Educational Technology 


Are you ready to embark on a journey with us in critically questioning the role, usage, intention and design of edtech through the decolonial lens? The birth and the subsequent growth of edtech was built on the promise of democratising education and learning. However, its various manifestations and interventions in different systems and levels of learning have managed to uphold the colonial power structures. This workshop will allow participants to engage with “decoloniality” as a concept first, then situate this understanding in the context of edtech. We will undergo a set of reflections and group activities to develop a framework which will be used to assess some selected edtech products on the grounds of “decoloniality”. If you want to read more about decolonizing technologies, check this out: and come with your thoughts at the workshop!

Critical Pedagogies in Higher Education

In this workshop on Critical Pedagogy in Higher Education, we aim to bring the audience to learn about and understand the philosophies and practices of various forms of critical pedagogy. The workshop will have theoretical aspects, as well as an experiential and participatory aspect to explore critical pedagogy. Here we are talking more specifically about pedagogy for emancipation, decolonial education, transformative education, experiential learning and the role of dialogue in education

Educational Export

This workshop aims to identify and discuss current issues and challenges relating to educational exportation such as power relations, cultural relevance and sensitivity and ethics among many other.

Spaces and Places of Learning

What is a shared learning space? What defines it and who makes it? And what happens when the perspectives of all stakeholders are brought into the creation process? These are some of the questions we aim to discuss in this workshop.

Interpretation of Decoloniality Through the Kitchen*

This session will explore the history of food and how colonialism set the foundations for capitalism in relation to food history. Processed food is contributing to the destruction of our environment and the disconnect from our own plate. We will cook together with ingredients from local farmers. Participants will walk away with a list of concrete actions they can take to modify their consumptions habits as well as recipes using local products.

Interpretation of Decoloniality Through Dance*

The purpose of this session is to engage participants with different ways of knowing and expressing through the medium of performing art. This will be a dialogic performance where the audience will be invited to pause, reflect, converse and contribute towards the dance. Through this process of engagement, we hope to bridge the gap that exists in traditional dance recitals where the role of the audience is passive and the artists’ thoughts are not completely apparent to the viewer.

                                                                                                                                   * Special session




8:15 - 9:00

Registration *

BQ Program Schedule

9:00 - 9:30

Welcome ceremony

9:30 - 11:00

Opening panel

11:00 - 12:00


12:30 - 13:50

Workshop Overview & Workshops - Session 1

14:00 - 15:20

Workshops - Session 2

15:30 - 16:00



Informal Networking @ Restaurant Zivago (recommended)


8:15 - 9:20

Day 1 recap & Day 2 overview - Special workshop "Interpretation of Decoloniality Through Dance" *

9:20 - 10:50

Workshops - Session 3

11:00 - 12:30

Lunch - (Optional ) Special workshop " Interpretation of Decoloniality Through the Kitchen (11:00-12:20)

12:30 - 13:50

Workshops - Session 4

14:00 - 15:30

Workshop Reflections & Closing Panel - Discussion with workshop moderators  *

15:40 - 16:00

Closing remarks: Elina Lehtomäki, Professor of Global Education, University of Oulu

18:00 - 01:00

Open Mic & Rap concert with Mactopias @ Helmi Bar (recommended)

* coffee and pulla included