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Letters From ~ 12 

Letter from India via Ibague, Colombia

Rajesh Tandon

Dear Chris,   


Sitting in this beautiful campus of University of Ibague in Colombia, where I am in the middle of training 25 young faculty on community-based participatory research, I remember meeting you (and Liz) at National Labour Institute, Delhi 45 years ago. That encounter led me to explore adult learning roots of experiential knowledge, and participatory research. It also connected me to wonderful, life-long colleagues like you, Shirley, Budd, Heribert, et al.

You not only encouraged me to  explore rural

realities in India from a learner’s lens (which

smartly educated USA returned young

professionals like me didn’t care much about

as we were arrogant with our theoretical

expertise); you also included Asian Participatory

Research network’s first ever meeting in

ASPBAE’s Thailand conference in 1979.

That encouragement is your style, betting on young, somewhat crazy types, almost like younger Chris! Your support made the birth of PRIA possible (which celebrated its 41 years just this month). Your dynamism in including multiple voices and perspectives of adult education in Asia-Pacific region gave ASPBAE a ‘new’ life; the leadership development program at CCE, Canberra and partnership with DVV International you made possible, sowed seeds of the young ‘take-over’ of national and regional structures of adult education in the region.

It was thus not so difficult for me to take forward the rootedness and societal relevance of ASPBAE when I became its President in 1991. PRIA became a partner of DVV International with dynamic support from Heribert, and ASPBAE continued to play greater advocacy roles with UNESCO in the region, and beyond.

It has been a while since we have met in person. Over this period, our conversations have continued around newer challenges of our times. Growing inequality, displacements and climate crisis, further aggravated during the pandemic, which made new demands on the adult education movement. You encouraged us to continue to share our stories in new forms of learning and education, beyond the classrooms. It is this intellectual stimulation, with personal humanism, that pushed us to re-connect life-long learning to higher education.

Over the past decade, as UNESCO Co-Chair with Budd, it has been possible to bring life-long learning (and thus UIL) in fresh engagement with higher education systems both internationally (UNESCO’s third world conference on higher education in May 2022) and nationally (University Grants Commission in India).

How I wish to be able to share these stories and vignettes with you Chris in person! How I wish you could visit PRIA and meet younger colleagues who only know this history intellectually!

PIMA is the most current example of your own professional journey; encourage and support young educators, then connect them with others; explore links of adult learning & education with poverty eradication, gender justice, climate crisis, SDGs etc; and, bring personal, human touch to those life-long relationships.

Awaiting a good hug, Chris.



Rajesh Tandon is Director of PRIA, New Delhi, India.

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