Neohumanist Educational Projects in Brazil

Translated by Shanti from documents prepared by Sudama and Dharmamitra

AMURT-AMURTEL in Brasil has been developing many social projects over the years. The first project was in the area of child education and was started officially in 1986. The main objective in all projects is to "promote the individual, the child, the family and the community in all dimensions based in the universal ideals of Neohumanism". Through the years they have been running several projects related to child education, familial and social support, social education, environmental education as well as projects that intend to arouse consciousness for social service and training volunteers. The projects are located in Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Brasília, Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul.

There are a total of 12 Neohumanist Schools in Brazil located in different areas. In Porto Alegre there are several projects running in areas of low income some of which will be mentioned in this article. In Porto Alegre there are five kindergartens with 290 students and a primary school with around 300 children. The ages of the children in these schools ranges from 2 to 12 years of age.

One of the schools is the Neohumanist School of Child Education of Ananda Marga in Belém Novo. The land where the school is was donated by a member of Ananda Marga and started with a nursery in 1984 as a social program of the Ananda Marga Association. Later in 1988 the nursery became a kindergarten under the "Fundação da Associação Beneficiente AMURT-AMURTEL" (Foundation of the Beneficent Association AMURT-AMURTEL) according to the need of such a structure for that region. In the same year an agreement with the Secretary of Education allowed improvements on the physical structure, pedagogical materials and qualified staff. In 1999 the school was once again improved and upgraded; the kitchen was expanded, 2 more classrooms and another toilet were added and more qualified professionals were brought in to work in the school.

In the same year on the same land a Program of Family Support and Protection was initiated. The school got stronger through this program since there was a social assistant there to support the children and their families. The program serves families with children from 0 to 17 years old that are in situations of social vulnerability such as those having disabilities, domestic violence, neglect, child work, school drop out or pregnancy in adolescence, among others. A social worker gives counselling according to the needs of each case. Fifty families are involved in the program. With this project the school became professional and integrated into the educational and social assistance network in the region. The journey of this school was only possible by the hard work of acaryas and margiis as well as dedicated staff committed to promoting good learning spaces, methods and experiences of the children.

Nowadays this school is divided into 3 classes: a nursery from 2 years and 11 months to 3 years and eleven months with a total of 20 children, the kindergarten classes with one class from 4 years to 4 years and 11 months with total of 25 children, and another class with students from 5 years to 5 years and 11 months also with 25 children.

The pedagogical foundation of the school reflects the philosophy of Neohumanism: "The objective of the Schools of Ananda Marga is the development of all potentialities of children, where they will not be only prepared for the competitive world; they will be prepared for life. The child recognizes herself full of potentialities, discovering, caring and preserving the environment where we live; developing as a person, a citizen and as part of the natural world that embraces her. The schools strengthen values and encourage sensitivity to others as legitimate and worthy and an understanding of our role in the guarantee of the rights of all." The ten principles of Neohumanism engaged in the proposal are: Awakening the thirst for knowledge and the development of all human personality, education based on ethics, awakening of spiritual consciousness, integrated learning, cultivation of aesthetics in all disciplines, support of local culture and respect for other cultures and places, a new environmental consciousness, the educator as an example, the spirit of service and the expansion of consciousness and the spirit of justice.

Due to the socio-economical conditions of certain areas in the region of Porto Alegre a group of projects was created for communities that live in those poor areas and suffer from different social and economical issues. In 1999 a project was developed in the area of Education Work youth employment through a program whose objective is to allow young people from 12 to 18 years of age access to the job market through education and professional training. The project is called "Curtindo a Adolescência sem Grilos" and it places young people in the job market through the partnerships created during the project. It also emphasizes the importance of preservation of the local environment and disseminates educational information related to citizenship, family, generation of peace, sexuality, self-esteem, preparation for the job market world, sexual diseases, AIDS and the use of drugs. The project promotes an awakening of consciousness of citizenship through the use of knowledge and experiences related to the daily life of teenagers. On the practical level this awakening is done through group dynamics that work on self-esteem, reflections, debates about the subjects announced or others proposed by the teenagers and by the creation of friendly social spaces. There are twenty-two teenagers involved in the program. There are 4 hours of classes 3 times a week in the theory and practise of gardening, cultivation of organic medicine and aromatic plants and also introduction to landscape architecture. The teenagers can learn here all the different phases of cultivation, production and storing of these plants. The project has different phases and they are evaluated collectively with all the participants; the teenagers, the families, technicians, educators and the community.

In 2003 a program for children from seven to fourteen years old was initiated that develops their self confidence and esteem through activities that encourage socialization in a stimulating, sound and loving environment. Forty five children and teenagers are a part of the program.

In 2006 the project of Social Consortium of Youth was started in partnership with the Ministry of Work in a program called "Primeiro Emprego" (first job). The second session finished with the placement of 40% of the class of 25 young people in the job market. In the same year in partnership with 6 municipal schools the project "Gestão Ambiental na Zona Sul: Educando para a Sustentabilidade Planetária" (environmental management of south area: educating for planetary sustainability) was initiated. This program created 40 environmental monitors who trained teachers all over this region.

In March 2007 the program Street Action was initiated with a multidisciplinary team: a social assistant, one psychologist, four social educators and a coordinator who built multiple strategies to face the situations of street children and teenagers. Also this team does a systematic follow up with their families. Around one hundred and twenty children and teenagers have already benefited and around two hundred people are involved in the program. Already in the second year there's a project called "Brincar e Viver" (Play and Live) with the main objective of promoting self esteem, emancipation and human development for teenagers that have suffered abuses as well as for their families. This is an innovative project that utilizes a group of educational and sensitive activities that stimulate affectionate bonds between teenagers and their families. The activities are based on sound pedagogy that utilizes traditional play, storytelling and circle songs, among other methods. Through the experiences and exchanges we look for encouraging actions that promote the potential of these families and teenagers in their quest for the basic rights of citizenship.