Pierre-Joseph Granereau, the French priest who created a successful and original rural education system

The priest Pierre-Joseph Granereau, creator of alternating pedagogy, a method of rural education in and with the countryside
The priest Pierre-Joseph Granereau, creator of alternating pedagogy, a method of rural education in and with the countryside

Pierre-Joseph Granereau, a little-known militant of the peasant cause is the title of the book that has just been translated from French, about the creator of the alternation pedagogy.

this amazing rural education system, soon centenary, originally from France, It settled in almost every corner of South America, from the Andes to the Pampas, from the jungle region to the Altiplano. Countries like Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, among others, benefited from his arrival. And of course, Argentina, one of the first to promote it.

Oscar Dinova, retired rural teachera teacher at the CEPT (Educational Centers for Total Production) in the province of Buenos Aires, has just translate into Spanish and publish in our country the book that traces the life of the creator of the system. In this talk with infobae, explains how he came into contact with this pedagogy, his contribution to the diffusion of this method in the 90s in Argentina and how the pandemic and quarantine gave him the time to delve into the life and work of Granereau, which gave rise to the idea of ​​the translation.

Oscar Dinova, translator and editor of the book on Granereau
Oscar Dinova, translator and editor of the book on Granereau

— How did you come into contact with this educational experience?

— Upon my return from exile in France, in 1985, I had every expectation of being able to insert myself into some social or educational project with which I could return to my country some of the European training that I had been able to carry out. Unfortunately, my Bachelor’s degree was not valid unless I took a revalidation. For three years I did precarious jobs, until I came across the start-up of the CEPT Program of the Province of Buenos Aires, based on the pedagogy of alternation, -rural schools that combine a period at school and one on the family property-. It was 1988 and it was, with the great effort of all the actors involved, a real success, given that they covered a felt need; training in and for the countryside without being uprooted.

— Was that what you were looking for?

– No way! Apart from making sense of our return, I was enormously surprised to learn that this system, based on teacher-student coexistence, responsible work in groups, the formation of areas of integrated knowledge and active family participation in the Centers, I was born precisely in the place where I spent 8 years in exile. It was 1988, and I quickly began to study all the existing bibliography in the French language, which was abundant and very elaborate. I then learned of the active participation in its creation of a priest, Pierre-Joseph Granereau, and a handful of rural leaders who believed in a fantastic utopia, create secondary education for the countryside in the 1930s in southwestern France.

Pierre-Joseph Granereau (2nd from left, standing, with a beard) at an alternating school
Pierre-Joseph Granereau (2nd from left, standing, with a beard) at an alternating school

— How did everything go?

— While I was taking my first steps as a teacher at the Educational Center for Total Production in San Andrés de Giles, I was presenting my Argentine thesis to revalidate my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Luján, on the subject “Alternative Schools, a Life Project”, which luckily was very well received by my Tutor and the examining table. It was to go back to the French historical antecedents that facilitated the start-up of a pedagogy that uses the rural environment as a learning scenario, the close link between theory and practice, the taking of responsibilities of families in the future of their children, the identification of the community with its school, etc. It was a true privilege to be able to access this long road, which was covered, for more than 150 years, by various institutions, pedagogues or simply lucid people who, like Granereau, they prioritized common sense over rigid forms, popular access to knowledge and the comprehensive use of available resources, such as disused buildings, among many other things. That was my first approach to the life of the priest Granereau, there was much to investigate, but little time was available.

— How was the system applied in Argentina?

— Following the same course of the French schools that gave rise to it, the system expanded in the interior of Argentina. To my teaching task I added those of Promoter of the system, in the National Ministry of Education. Not only was their establishment encouraged in the Province of Buenos Aires, but also in Corrientes, Chaco and Jujuy. It was throughout the ’90s. Several alternative schools were created in those provinces, with strong community participation. One of the tools used was the publication of my Thesis by the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Nation, that I gave to the Ministry, and free distribution throughout the national territory. Even today, it continues to be a reference for teachers who want to start working in alternation programs, since bibliographic material in Spanish is not so abundant.

Alternating Schools (CEPT) in Argentina
Alternating Schools (CEPT) in Argentina

— You said that there was much to investigate…

– Much! I was fascinated by the idea of ​​learning more about the life of a person who, in the 1930s, when the world was experiencing an unprecedented crisis, had conceived the brilliant idea of ​​a system by and for the peasants. But also, with them. How he had arrived, at his 50 years, to that brilliant spark that started it all. From where she had nurtured herself to mature the idea, were some of the questions. From my experience as a militant, back in the distant ’70s, I learned to prioritize the contribution of creative individuals, of the inestimable value of a life, insofar as preserving it can change that of thousands of others. Also, with a philosophy of true inclusion, that of the work of all the beneficiaries, tolerance and the democratic sphere of decision-making. That was Granereau.

— How did you deepen your knowledge about the experience and its creator?

— I was lucky enough to have access to your autobiography, Le Livre de Lauzun (The Book of Lauzun, edited in French), a fascinating publication, from 1969, in which he traces, from his own pen, a life without equal. He was born into a family of farmers, in 1885, in a small town in the south-west of France, later he became a priest, as it was the outlet for many of the country children of those times. Anointed parish priest, nothing would stop him from the greatest goal of his life; that rural children have a quality education, without leaving their environment.

The recently published booklet on Granereau and his method
The recently published booklet on Granereau and his method

— And how did the idea of ​​translating this book come about?

— As I was saying, his autobiography opened me up to his entire life. To such an incredible extent, that I began to give talks in educational institutions, among them the CEPT, about this brilliant pedagogue of life, without any title, not even the baccalaureate managed to pass, but who intuited, on the one hand, the needs of the French peasant family, and who also, he prepared for long years for when the opportunity presented itself. It was a long maturation and search for possible tools so that the families would see the proposal feasible and the State would later recognize them.

— Was the pandemic the opportunity that presented itself to you?

– I think so. During the pandemic I had the time to read more and investigate the Granereau family, helped by the existence of networks. So it was thatI found a book written by a great-nephew of the abbot, Gilles Granereau, who, together with Marie Claude Bernard, a genealogist, offers us the ancestral migratory origins of the Granereau family and Patrick Gués, a leading specialist in alternation, a member of the National Union of French Maisons Familiales -Family Houses, as the Gallic schools of alternation- which reviews, with a critical eye, the main aspects of the creator’s life. The real luck was to personally contact his descendant, Gilles, who kindly authorized the translation and dissemination of the work Pierre-Joseph Granereau, an unknown militant of the peasant cause, published in France by the Société de Borda, for the diffusion of Sciences, Letters and Arts of the Aquitaine region.

— Is this your first translation job?

— Yes, it is the first, and it allowed me to take advantage of the knowledge of the French language and knowledge in alternation. It was a very interesting experience. One manages, in the translation, to enter unsuspected levels of identification. Also, I was able to reach a synthesis about this real man that with his creation benefited so many rural families in the whole world, with no other objective than to massify education. A true revolutionary. And a fascinating character. Imagine that he combined in his personal profile the farmer, the seminarian, the rural union activist and the educator. Knowing its people, their jobs and customs, being the owner of an outstanding cultural background, belonging to a rural union for the promotion of the environment and, moreover, having been the first alternating teacher, director, producer of study manuals, promoter of creation of new schools and articulator between the French State, the Church and the Community. The whole in a context of the beginning of the Second World War and the Nazi occupation of his country.

– An admirable will…

– Do not even say it. An iron and unclassifiable personality, generator of an overwhelming mystique. In fact, his ecclesiastical authority, based in Agen, defined him as “a free electron”. An indomitable. Extraordinary character. While the world was going through one of its most cruel and devastating historical experiences, this campaign priest, laid the foundations for a pedagogy that began in 1935 in a humble chapel in Serignac-Peboudou and today has some 500 centers in France, the presence of their schools and associations on all continents, thousands of students, research and documentation centers. We could say that he not only bet on the future, he built it.

Alternating rural schools in Argentina
Alternating rural schools in Argentina

— Do you recommend this book then?

– Absolutely. They are pages to enjoy and reflect on. In addition, he has photos from the family archive that are a true delight, such as the one of the priest with his first four young students. For those who have participated in this pedagogy it is a source of pride, for others, an invitation to get to know it and why not? to spread it. Do not doubt that there will always be ears ready to listen to this proposal and to continue building, together, the path opened almost 90 years ago.

— What other projects do you have?

— One of them is to translate the ledger, The Book of Lauzun, his complete autobiography. But this is the first step. We will have a good experience with this book and then we will work to offer in Spanish the life of Granereau, written by himself, in the 1960s. It has only been translated into Portuguese by the Brazilian Alternation Associations.

— How do those interested in reading get the book? Pierre-Joseph Granereau, a little-known militant of the peasant cause?

— The book is edited by me, in a printing house in my city, Mercedes. The only goal is to spread it. Delivered at cost price + shipping. You can contact me through social networks: Oscar Alberto Dinova (Facebook/Messenger). Also by email: [email protected]

Alternating rural schools
Alternating rural schools


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