It’s not just the cheap one. There is also educational poverty which, especially in the South, distances students from the classroom. But it is possible to help disadvantaged children. As the projects we are presenting to you show.
Today Andrea wants to build a shuttle; Anna and Melissa a house. Everyone takes the cubes and soft cylinders, a few sheets to make the roof and away, we play. Together. Then you draw, you jump, you tell each other.
We are in Milan, in the kindergarten in Via Ragusa: the psychomotricity workshop is taking place. A moment of expression outside the box, to gain confidence in oneself and in others. The workshop is part of Primi Passi, the project of the Municipality of Milan in response to educational poverty, “which often – but not always – overlaps with the economic one and means lack of relationships, isolation, no access to training services” explains Franca Locati, head of the Education Projects Office of the Municipality. “Among the results that we expect from the workshops, one can be the reduction of early school leaving before the mandatory 15 years. With the children of the kindergarten we do a job of prevention so that they face the school with peace of mind and fit in without problems.
In Italy, 1.2 million children between the ages of 3 and 18 live in absolute poverty. The rate of school dropout (i.e. children who leave school without graduating) is close to 14 per cent; in Sicily it reaches 23 per cent and in the South in general it is well above the average. But there are other worrying data: more than half of the children do not read books, 1 in 3 do not use the Internet, 40% do not play sports (Save the Children data). “We work on the welfare of children in all fields, in the network with the community: schools, families, non-profit neighborhood, social services, parishes,” clarifies Locati.
There are many interesting interventions such as Primi Passi (First Steps), even if little known. The social enterprise With Children is an impressive control room, the “arm” of the Fund to combat child educational poverty born from an agreement between banking foundations, the Third Sector and the Go- verno with a budget of 360 million euros in three years. Since 2016, 240 projects have been launched to involve over 500,000 children and young people, because most of the initiatives in the sector go through here. After three years of experimentation, the government has just refinanced the Fund until 2021, albeit with a lower budget, equal to 55 million per year. But we are moving forward. “Each project has many partners and a very detailed work plan. An evaluation body monitors the results on the way”, explains the president, Carlo Borgomeo. “We need to be rooted in the territory, to know the concrete problems, to create participation”.
Primi Passi has the City of Milan as leader and among the partners ATS (ex Asl) and associations such as the House of Charity. There are families who work alongside other families; animated reading workshops for parents, cultural mediators for foreign mothers, training for social workers; theatre workshops and pet therapy. A thousand initiatives and a common idea: everyone with their own skills can do something.
There is no trait d’union between the projects; large and small associations, secular and confessional, each gives a contribution, according to its history, with public funding or crowdfunding between friends. Beyond the official “captivism”, the reality that consoles and gives hope is that there is an Italy of solidarity that goes on. And in this Italy there are many people with different skills and experiences. To unite them, the desire to work to offer all children the same educational opportunities. A true, daily solidarity.
In Rome, the Alfredo Rampi Centre, born after the tragedy of Vermicino, promotes the culture of safety. With the project Stelle di periferie, between Primavalle and Tor Bella Monaca, the theme is declined as self-confidence, self-esteem, and aims to strengthen the group of peers: if you grow together and you help, you face life better. In another suburb, Vivi la tua scuola tries to involve parents in order to sensitize them against school dropout.
In L’Aquila, Brucaliffo is working on the opening of a municipal playroom in the historic centre, a meeting place that families are asking for to rebuild the network of relationships broken 10 years ago by the earthquake. The people of L’Aquila want to start again in their city, the playroom could be a winning bet.
Caritas of Ragusa, as part of a larger project in the South, focuses on families in solidarity. For now it is a small experiment; some children “at risk” are taken care of after school by another family, who follows them in their homework and at the oratory. A positive synergy that helps the most fragile and keeps them off the streets. Also in Catanzaro, Caritas involves families: it is not assistance, they underline, but the promotion of positive action.
It focuses on the Openspace technology of Action Aid, which concerns 4000 children from 12 schools in 4 cities (Bari, Milan, Reggio Calabria, Palermo): “We would like to transform schools, now underused, in gyms of innovation,” says the manager Luca Fanelli, “where children and adults can use 3D printers and virtual realities and find paths of orientation, information desks for parents, and recreational activities such as social theater. An attractive school opposes abandonment”.
Among the most famous experiences there are the 24 Light Points, the high intensity educational centers of Save the Children (among the supporters there is Alpitour) throughout Italy. The last one is in Prato: they are spaces with workshops, games, pedagogical advice where you can feel welcomed. Places from which to leave, also, to discover the territory.
The first to be born, more than 50 years ago, but very topical on the theme of hospitality are the Schools of Peace of the Community of Sant’Egidio. Today, in Rome alone, there are 20 of them. The aim is to mix “children “at risk” and not, so as to educate everyone to be together,” explains the manager, Evelina Martelli. “Sharing pushes disadvantaged people to be like others, overcoming victimhood. There are no helpers and no helpers; we prefer there to be a lot of confusion, like in a big family. This creates security. The real one”. Even in the kindergarten where we were, the group is heterogeneous: “Italians and foreigners, shy and aggressive, must live together. Only in this way is there enrichment and growth”, explains psychomotorist Laura Pomari. The fight against educational poverty also involves the construction of Andrea’s shuttle.