EXPLORING OUR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
We are halfway through a memorable month!
Women’s month here in South Africa honours the strong women who are the backbone of our homes and communities. A month where we acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices they made to contribute to our country and her people.
For Montessorians, the month of August culminates with the celebration of another great woman, who although not South African, has influenced the way that many people in our country choose to educate their children. Maria Montessori’s 150th birthday will be honoured on the 31st of August. Her legacy is one of a vision of hope for a better world, hope for a kinder society and the hope that one day we may all be citizens of the world.
In 1946, Maria Montessori said, ‘If we wish to achieve peace and mutual understanding, we must start at the moment of birth, the moment all men are alike’ (Montessori, 2012, p.2). Her words are just as valid today. It feels as if either her voice was not loud enough, or our priorities as a human race veered off on a trajectory in the pursuit of personal comforts in lieu of social solidarity.
Montessori proposed that education would lead man to a new humanity (Montessori, 1992). Her method gives careful attention to the spiritual development of the child where her/his very being is acknowledged and respected. The value of every child should be paramount in our classrooms.
Part of the work in orientating the children to their world involves guiding them to understand their cosmic purpose (Montessori, 2012). This means that we have to offer as many rich and real experiences as possible that will connect them with their time, place and culture. In doing so we develop a sense of belonging, a true identity that they are part of this world and that their participation in it, and the contributions they can make are important and valued.
If this was Montessori’s message in 1946, why is the world still struggling to find peaceful solutions to her problems? Despite the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (which South Africa ratified in 1995) the world’s children are still under threat. We have to do better and we have to be better. For many of us, this has to start in our classrooms on a daily basis. Our spirits need to be right when working with tomorrow’s leaders so that change can happen. Montessori said that ‘the child is both a hope and a promise for mankind’ (Montessori, 1992, p.31). It is up to us as adults to start listening to her voice and ensuring that our practice is authentic and true to her vision.
In light of this, we at MCSA have included in our programme a service component with our students. This month, our campuses across the country have embarked on a Sandwich Drive, identifying organisations/ shelters in need during this stressful time of the Covid-19 pandemic. The students are aiming to make 150 sandwiches per week per centre in remembrance of Montessori’s 150th birthday.
Our aim with this drive is to engage our students in a service project that benefits our communities. In their training, our students learn about Montessori’s idea of the cosmic purpose of all humans. The students not only contribute to the cause but also learn more about the programmes that are helping others in need. Our hope is that these projects will help our students realise their responsibility to humanity beyond the comforts of their homes and schools and extend this to the children they ultimately come to work with.
Although this is a specific contribution made by our students during this month, the hope is to be able to tag schools and others into the project so that the drive does not simply stop at the end of the month. If you or your school are interested in taking a turn for a month, or even a week, please contact Rushni on firstname.lastname@example.org. She will put you in touch with your closest centre for details.
The Montessori birthday month ends off with our MCSA Online Congress, a day of inspiring talks to re-inspire you and feed your souls. The theme is ‘Being a Citizen of the World’ and will explore how we can nurture our youngest to be ready for the world they will venture out into one day. Our role as adults, whether parents or teachers cannot be underestimated. Our task is just as important and must be taken seriously. We need to prepare ourselves and our spaces to be the best possible examples for our future generations. We look forward to welcoming you all and enjoying a day where we, in our way are expressing solidarity in the quest for a better world for our children.
– Heidi van Staden –
14 August 2020
Montessori, M. (1992) Education and Peace Oxford: Clio Press
Montessori, M. (2012) The 1946 London Lectures Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company
Montessori, M, (2019) Citizen of the World Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company