In an increasingly connected but paradoxically divided world, UNESCO emphasises the crucial role of education and teachers in countering hate speech, a phenomenon that is on the rise with the advent of social media. Education goes beyond mere transmission of knowledge; it is a tool to raise awareness, to teach respect for diversity and to promote human rights. This involves preparing students to recognise and respond to hatred and injustice, distinguishing it from freedom of expression.
The Community of Sant'Egidio recognises children's ability to be supportive and empathetic to everyone. Their challenge in expressing needs has taught us to listen to the most fragile, to respond to needs, even the unexpressed ones. Moreover, children have taught us the value of trust and acceptance of one's own vulnerability and reminded us that interdependence is a fundamental human condition.
Our alliance with children and other generations is a pillar in the life of the Community of Sant'Egidio, committed to rebuilding the social fabric of the broader human family. This journey began helping children from the shacks near the Cinodrome in Rome in 1968. It has evolved to include children from diverse social and cultural backgrounds worldwide.
A family environment is created in the Schools of Peace, where each child can study and grow supported by the affection and friendship of adults. These centres, run by volunteers, offer holistic education encompassing scholastic rehabilitation, deviance prevention, socialisation, inclusion of children with special needs and much more. Activities include visits, outings, parties and excursions, and emphasise the importance of play and celebration as integral parts of the educational process.
Attention to the each child's individual needs is crucial with support activity tailored to their unique needs and potential. We strive to break the mechanisms of social exclusion, starting at school, through school support and guidance in growth.
The Schools of Peace are therefore more than just a place of learning, they are an environment where people are taught to live in a world of solidarity. They are spaces where thousands of 'at-risk' children and adolescents worldwide find opportunities, affection and guidance.
On this International Day of Education, we reaffirm our commitment to stand by children and young people, not merely as distant teachers, but as friends and allies in their journey of growth. A journey that sees them not only as recipients of knowledge, but also as valuable teachers of trust, empathy and solidarity.