Educateurs sans Frontières
In 1999 AMI established the Educateurs sans Frontières (Educators without Borders) www.amiesf.org to champion the cause of all children and to revisit Montessori principles and practices from the perspective of society at large.
When using the term Educateurs sans Frontières, we refer to borders which transcend the obvious ones to do with nation states. The truly important ones are the psychological and spiritual frontiers - the ideological, religious, racial, social and economic, cultural and linguistic boundaries which artificially divide a humanity as yet largely unaware of its intrinsic unity and its interconnectedness with the earth that brought it forth.
Dr. Montessori's work can be applied in a wide variety of ways which can benefit the cause of the child beyond the school and the home. Her own term for the pedagogy she created was 'Education as an Aid to Life', and education as an aid to life is applicable at any time, in any place, within all social strata, through public or private agencies, in settings rural, urban and remote.
When Montessori principles are applied in the wider context of society, their possibilities are vast and all-encompassing. They can be of incalculable help to parents, social workers, child-care workers, family counsellors, in short, to any person involved with the developing human being; they can be, and have been applied with children undergoing lengthy hospitalisation, maladjusted children, physically impaired children, children victims of violence, children abandoned, children at risk.
Montessorians around the world have started a number of projects in disadvantaged communities. One such project, the Corner of Hope, is described below.
Corner of Hope
AMI has been involved in Africa since 1971 when the ‘Help the Children Projects’ were started. The ethos of the project has always been to help the local community to help themselves so rather than set up an International Training Centre there and send trainers from overseas to train teachers the approach has always been to train local people to be able to train teachers and to establish national training centres. This has been done through the Maria Montessori Institute who has offered bursaries for teachers to study in London. In the same spirit the teachers have been shown how to make their own Montessori materials from local material. This is not only a cost effective way of them obtaining what they need but it also means that they are well-equipped to make new materials and repair damaged ones when they need to.
The ‘Help the Children Projects’ have helped to establish hundred’s of Montessori schools and 6 national training centres throughout Kenya and Tanzania. During the violence caused by the 2007 elections in Kenya, entire communities were forced to leave their homes and move to the Internally Displaced People’s [IDP] camps. The Montessori community in Kenya wanted to assist the children in the IDP camps through the establishment of Montessori programmes and AMI have been able to get funding from the Youth Hope Foundation to establish a Montessori programme in the IDP camp in New Canaan, Kenya and from this the ‘Corner of Hope’ project has been born.
The project is a pilot to show how Montessori Teacher Training and Schools [3–12] can be delivered to the most vulnerable communities such as those in refugee, transit and IDP Camps. Its aim is self-reliance not dependence, community not school, self ownership and control, dignity and self worth which all play an important role in overcoming the effects of trauma experienced by the inhabitants of the camps. It has the added advantage of building for the future and creating transferable skills that will accompany both adults and children wherever their final destination may be.
The project plan is to provide the community with skills to build their own school for 520 children within the Transit Camp and to train 40 teachers with sufficient knowledge to work in other similar situations. It is hoped that the project will provide a model for government and NGO analysis, which will eventually seed similar projects in other IDP and Transit Camps. Donations to the ‘Corner of Hope’ project can be made through the AMI and Maria Montessori Institute websites.
Montessori Around The World
Montessori Around The World is a website which links Montessori programs serving children whose lives have been affected by war, poverty or HIV/Aids with available resources.
“A great social mission that will ensure the child justice, harmony and love remains to be accomplished. This great task must be the work of education for this is the only way to build a new world and to bring peace." Maria Montessori.