Year 1597: Saint Joseph Calasanz opened the first free public school in Europe in the Trastevere area in Rome to take care of and offer a future to those children who nobody had bothered to educate until then.
Year 2000: The United Nations approved the Millennium Development Goals. Goal 2, Achieve universal primary education, has the following target: Ensure that by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.
The aim of Calasanz’s major project more than 400 years ago –no children out of school–, which led him to found the Pious Schools and start a work which later spread to many other parts of the world, is still one of the greatest challenges facing mankind nowadays.
As Joseph Calasanz stated in his famous Memorial of 1621, defending the education of the poor against those who opposed it, educating children and the young is the “most worthy, the most noble, the most meritorious, the most beneficial, the most useful, the most necessary, the most natural, the most reasonable, the most gratifying, the most agreeable and the most glorious” service.
There is no doubt that education represents the foundation of human development, since it is the stone with which the future of individuals and peoples is built. Furthermore, as Calasanz realized, education is the best and the most solid tool to transform society and the world, promoting justice and peace.
However, although some steps have been taken in recent years, education for all is still a pending issue in our current world. Moreover, recent UNESCO reports alert that the progress made in the number of children attending school has stagnated in recent years. There are still 61 million children in the world who cannot go to school. Many others (200 million approximately) are in school but lack the basic skills due to the poor quality of the education they receive.
The Pious Schools feel now more than ever co-responsible for the global challenge of guaranteeing quality education for all. Therefore, from their own charisma, they keep committing themselves, as Calasanz himself did, to taking education wherever it is most necessary.
At present there are 189 Piarist schools throughout the world attended by 125,000 students. Many of these educational centres are in countries in Africa, Asia andAmerica, in popular communities to which the Pious Schools have arrived to respond to the educational needs of a mostly impoverished population. A population with children who, until then, had found it very difficult to have access to basic education, either because there were not enough schools in the area or because their families could not afford the cost that going to school implied.
In those realities, Pious Schools have implemented and promote educational activities aimed at the most underprivileged, which can be maintained thanks to a considerable local effort and to the solidarity coming from other places.
Within this major Piarist educational mission, Itaka-Escolapios is a solidarity network which connects schools and educational projects in several countries from the premise that every child or young person must be able to have access to quality education and that the solidarity to make this possible cannot have any borders.
At present Itaka-Escolapios is collaborating in maintaining schools inCameroon,BoliviaandIndia, as well as socio-educational programmes aimed at the poor and vulnerable population inBrazil,Venezuela,Nicaragua,Dominican RepublicandSpain.
Through this year’s solidarity campaign, we want to move a step forward in our commitment in favour of education in the world. We intend to show the reality of the places where the Pious Schools are present, especially those which are more deprived but where the educational task is specially necessary and stimulating.
And we also intend to channel our solidarity, through the Itaka-Escolapios network, to those educational projects which are specially needed in other countries, those projects which are gradually making it possible to achieve that major goal: a world in which there is no child out of school.
We are positive, if you support Itaka-escolapios, together we can change lives and the world.