THEME OF THE MEETING
If we try different ways to look at our cities and at our social life, we’ll start imagining and building a different society. How about a better one?
The “child’s” fresh look has got the gift for being “alternative” as it embodies the views of all those who are likely to be excluded from the socio-economic and cultural life (such as foreigners, elderly and disabled, poor people…). The 30th Meeting of Freinet Educators will focus every educational effort so that boys and girls will be enabled to attend public life, valued as individuals and full rights citizens, as it is recommended by the 1989 United Nations Convention of Rights of the Child. (1)
The school is a major starting point to assert and defend the rights of children and teenagers, but we always ought to be remembered that, as an African saying goes: “To educate a child a whole village is needed”.Meaning that the educational task does not end in the classroom, but can be carried out at any time, at any place of social life.
The Ridef meeting, bringing together teachers, educators, administrators and associations from many countries of the world, can help us to understand that children’s needs and their rights go hand in hand: they have a right to freedom of expression and criticism, as well as they need protection, tutoring and support while they grow up and learn.
We are fully aware and persuaded that any injustice, discrimination, any obstacle set against a single boy or girl, will make all the others less free and independent citizens of the world.
CHILDHOOD IN TODAY’S WORLD
The Federation of Modern School Movements, according to the principles of the Celestin Freinet’s pedagogy ,feels committed to promote, in every school in the world, the growth of each child through learning in a cooperative way, as well as the development of critical thinking and independence of thought. This goal can only be reached through the rejection of any discrimination or conditioning, either racial, linguistic, religious, of gender, political, economic, cultural, social. That’s why the task of education spreads out of the classroom and involves and calls for every social structure of the community. The aim is to empower boys and girls with what Edgar Morin calls a “Homeland Earth Identity”.
CONDITIONING AND RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
We are aware that strong attention should be given to many forms of violation of the children’s rights which,however long since reported, still can be found (and not just in the South of the World): 200 million children are forced to work instead of attending the classroom, others – their peers – are forced to become soldiers, and others still face blackmail and abuse, and are subject to exploitation by the adult world. Finally, many others, belonging to ethnic minorities, are despised and left on the fringe of society.
We’ll remember the work of our comrade Jean Le Gal about self-management in school and children rights.
Besides, the 30th RIDEF meeting will pay particular attention to the information/ communication technologies, which, especially in the Western world, are changing our ways of thinking and learning as well as promoting new lifestyles. The concern is that these new technological tools, introduced early in primary education, may alter the natural experience of growth,of self-knowledge and the perception of the natural environment, and even the forms of interpersonal communication. We educators are worried about virtual experiences as substitutes for actual experience, we are concerned that the laws of the market would lead to an unnatural growth out of childhood, where key steps go skipped and adult-like models proposed, and the children deprived of time for relationships and of freedom of expression.
THE SCHOOL – BOTH IN THE NORTH AND IN THE SOUTH OF THE WORLD – AS A PLACE FOR RIGHTS PRACTICE
The teachers of the Freinet Movement invite the world educators to operate so that the school can be transformed into a place of practical implementation of children’s rights and a monitoring center for the situations where these rights are denied. We do not forget that in the more economically and socially developed parts of the world there are many immigrant children: the meeting Ridef of Reggio Emilia can be an opportunity to understand not only the different cultures, but also privileged positions which do not take in due consideration fatigue and privation.
FREINET PEDAGOGY, RIGHT TO PARTICIPATION; THE CHILDREN’S COUNCILS
From exchanges and meetings to be held in Reggio Emilia we want to launch a strong appeal to schools, educators and the institutions to work together to extend the forms of protection of minors and the development of direct, participated democracy. In particular, we think that Councils attended by boys and girls can be set up in every city as a way of listening to and involving them – through direct participation – in their community social life. This goes against any marketing view which considers education as any other commodity, while it is a common good and inalienable individual right.
BUILDING THE CITY FOR ALL AND EVERYONE
We think of reshaping our cities to make them suitable for our children: it is the way to change. Urban spaces today are built to meet adult life styles and they dictate fragmented rhythms: the relations are confused by the speed of transport, very few have direct contact with the environment. This is why cities should be rethought and redesigned up by listening to children, as already suggested by the experience of the project led by the CNR ( Research National Board) Francesco Tonucci with the international workshop “The city of the children”.
FRAGMENTATION FROM THE NARRATIVE
The society in which we live has been called “liquid” (Zygmund Bauman), that is to say it is devoid of steady points of reference, and in it we are, all of us, adults and children, drawn to a life of syncopated rhythms, constantly at risk of “losing ourselves” into fragmented life experiences.
It is a situation that educators know fairly well, because they read it in their students’ lives: counteracting this tendency is vital in helping children to learn and grow together.
As we are supposed to promote the formation of our students’ identity, which is both unified and plural, it is important to develop their skills in representing and narrating reality. The narrative skill is essential in order to build links, networks of relationships, stories and tales. The development of narrative abilities may allow you to read in new and different ways the rules of living; it can allow you to redraw the cities without ignoring the lively stories of the place and its inhabitants, and it can help everyone to develop original collective identities.
We are aware of the limited attention that childhood receives also in our world, but we also want to remember some achievements of the school and the civil society in our country, so that the best Italian educational experiences can provide, among others, some directions about the ways.
In particular, we think of:
- The law about the school inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream classes (see Law 517 of 1977)
- Experiences of integration of foreigners (see “The Italian way to the intercultural school and the integration of foreign students”, arranged by the National intercultural integration observatory and the Italian Ministry of Education in 2007)
- The establishment of the new unified Middle school fifty years ago (1962) and Nursery School education (1968)
- The presence of Full-time schools
- The experience of organizing quality pre-Nursery and Nursery public schools, the most famous of which is located in the city that will host Ridef (Reggio Children)
And, outside the strictly educational institutions, we think of:
- The experience and advanced examples, such as that of Reggio children with regard to the attention to childhood based on the recognition of diversity as an opportunity for diverse programming, acknowledging the abilities of everyone
- Many other experiences, such as CEIS, the Italian-Swiss Educational Center of Rimini
- Integrated projects between schools and territories (in Pistoia, Turin, Bologna, Venice …)
- The international project “The City of boys and girls” of the CNR ( Research National Board of Italy) , which gave impetus to design cities and neighborhoods suitable for boys and girls and to establish forms of representation of children /teenagers in institutions.
- Extra-school educational situations and activities, such as those managed by the French and Italian CEMEA (Centers for Education with the Methods of Active Education) or Legambiente or Educational Villages proposed by Casa –Laboratorio of Cenci (Amelia, Umbria).
From these good experiences we can start despite the difficulties.
This is the 30th Ridef aim: good educational experiences set at school to be wholly effective need to spread outside school, and educators, beyond the walls of school buildings, can be the architects of a better future for all the world’s children.
NOTE (*) The Convention rights of childhood and adolescence can be read as work goals.
- Right to life, right to health and psycho-affective wellbeing.
- Right to education, study, instruction (fighting early school leaving and discrimination against girls and teenagers)
- Right to a family, a home, a friendly environment and community (projects against the immigrants’ segregation and management of the neighbourhoods deterioration )
- Right to protection against discrimination and the different abilities (projects for the promotion of good school and social inclusion)
- Right to protection against abuse (projects against child prostitution – female mostly)
- Right to protection against exploitation (projects against school dropouts, child labour, poverty)
- Right to protection against war (projects to fight such phenomena as the “children soldier,”
- Right to their own identity and culture (projects against the marginalization of Rom, Sinti and immigrants .. ethnic minorities)
- Right to expression and to play (projects to create playing areas, to counter the individualism and /or loneliness).
Moreover , here we have another set of rights universally ignored
- The right to security (projects for safe cities, towns, villages .. promotion of autonomy of boys / girls, joint projects with their parents to avoid over-protective attitudes)
- The right of children to be informed (art. 13 and 17);
- The right to take part in the cultural and artistic life of the territory (Article 31),
- The right to say their opinion and to be involved in decisions that affect them (Article 12),
- The right to associate (Article 15)