The word “education” derives from the Latin word educere which means “to draw forth”. Many dedicated educators have reiterated that education is a deliberate process of drawing out learning, of encouraging and giving time to discovery, to draw out the best in each person. Dr S. Radhakrishnan said, “True teachers are those who help us think for ourselves”. According to Swami Vivekananda, “Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man.” In essence, Education is a matter of connecting head, heart and hands for personal fulfilment and action for the common good.
We know that we cannot find happiness in solitude: Aristotle (384-324 B.C E.) who tutored Alexander the Great at the court of Macedonia, had already deduced this. 2400 years later, especially now in the thick of Covid-19 days, we realize all the more how we are all interdependent and that only in the space of sincere and constructive relationships can each person thrive and become one’s true self. Only if we are deeply convinced that we live on a shared planet will it be possible to taste the joy and wellbeing that stems from shared knowledge.
Four years ago, a group of around 400 educators from different countries of the world launched a project called Edu2Edu, short form for ‘Educate Oneself to Educate Others’, with the purpose of training educators to be better equipped and relate better to children and adolescents entrusted to their care. The project is promoted by the international Focolare Movement in partnership with Sophia University Institute (Loppiano, Italy), the LUMSA University (Rome, Italy) and the New Humanity International Association, an NGO partner of UNESCO that is active in more than 100 countries worldwide.
“I understood that the soul is neither small nor big, but that it is always the ‘soul’”, said Chiara Lubich (1920-2008), founder of the Focolare Movement. The pedagogy proposed by the Edu2Edu project is inspired by this vision of Chiara, who had great love for the younger generation and entrusted to them fully the growth and diffusion of her ideal of universal brotherhood. A dedicated primary school teacher herself, she believed that her students would bloom and progress in their learning if she managed to share with them a relationship of trust and openness, participating in their daily lives and interests. Encouraging love for wisdom while making knowledge attractive, relevant and beautiful, she motivated and helped her students discover the meaning and purpose of life within themselves, offering her own life experience in her teaching methods without imposing it.
The mission of the Edu2Edu project is to promote this vision of Chiara, a new culture of childhood and adolescence. Young ones are seen as being jointly responsible with their educators for building personal relationships that contribute fully to the growth of communities, both locally and globally. Through Edu2Edu, families, schools, sports associations, publishing houses, etc., worldwide are constantly engaged in supporting the vision of an education which involves “head, heart and hands” together, and networking proves to be an essential foundation to fulfil this important task.
Edu2Edu promotes the concept of “service-learning”, which affirms that the formation of a person should involve a formation in and for the community. A service learning initiative supported by the project is the Cantiere Hombre Mundo (Citizens of the World Work Camp), a two-week international camp where teens from different countries meet and offer themselves to be of service to the community. The name Hombre Mundo — literally meaning World Man — was coined by Chiara Lubich herself, when she encouraged young people to become fulfilled persons who hold in their hearts the treasures which people from all continents offer them, and in turn share their own treasures with others all over.
In 2017, about 300 teenagers from different countries aged between 13 and 17 travelled to Croatia, Serbia and Poland in Eastern Europe, while others went to various Latin American countries. For the first week they received training towards global citizenship, overcoming prejudices and opening up to the whole world. In the second week they travelled in smaller groups to different countries and worked on various social projects with poor and marginalized communities. In Guatemala, for example, the young people spent time listening to the needs of the indigenous communities and then at the request of the City Mayor planted 1,000 trees to make good for the damage done by illegal logging which caused landslides during the rains. In helping the neediest of people they discovered that there is more joy in giving than in receiving.
In October last year, the Indian Edu2Edu collaborators travelled from different cities to Mumbai for a weekend experience. It turned out to be an occasion to build a strong educational pact, living a new and unique method of dialogue, trust and joy in discovering that educators and students form one body. A number of interactive workshops outlined Education for Peace, Use of Social Media in Education, Teens’ Relationship Enhancement, Sports4Peace, How to Develop Value Quotient in Educators, etc. The focus throughout the programme was the centrality of children and adolescents in the educational relationship, in an effort to help younger generations become active citizens and changemakers.
Edu2Edu promoters also travelled to Mumbai from Italy, Switzerland and USA. From Mumbai they went to visit various cities. The visit to the Gandhian Shanti Ashram of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, gave rise to a rich cultural exchange and an intense dialogue with volunteers of the Ashram involved in health and education projects for underprivileged children. The facilitators also interacted with students who are involved in poverty solution projects and commit to help other children from disadvantaged backgrounds to access to food and education.
“It takes a whole village to educate a child,” goes an African proverb. This is the vision of Edu2Edu: a global educational village, where all participate according to their respective roles, and form a network of human relationships. Education becomes the key to start numerous processes of positive change, where everyone looks to the future with hope.