The Rise and Fall of the Ecoles Populaires Kanak in New Caledonia
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Launched officially at the second congress of the Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) in February 1985, the Ecoles Populaires Kanak (EPK) movement grew to include dozens of schools, hundreds of volunteer animateurs and thousands of pupils throughout the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia. The EPK represented a rejection of French education in favour of an alternative where everything from the language of instruction through to timetabling was designed to meet the aspirations of the indigenous Kanak people. Today, the national structure of the EPK no longer exists, although its vision is still widely shared and the remaining school in Gossannah in the north of the island of Ouvea is thriving. This paper examines the rise and fall of the EPK. It discusses the origins of the ideas behind the EPK, the political context which led to these being put into practice and the achievements of the EPK. It then analyses the many types of opposition the EPK encountered. The clearest was that which came from the French Government and other procolonial forces. However, the EPK was also under siege from within the independence movement where, for different reasons, it found opponents in both radical and conservative groupings. This paper argues that the EPK's close association with a formal political structure was both its strength and its weakness. It argues that the EPK was a casualty of the division and demobilisation of the Kanak independence movement that France was able to achieve through the 1988 Matignon Accords.