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+++ 22.12.2017 +++

A direct connection: Educational sponsorships

With the help of educational sponsorships, the Friends of Waldorf Education can offer continuous support to individual students. For the Friends of Waldorf Education, Fabian Michel oversees the connections between school, sponsors and the sponsored children or classes. During a visit to the Waldorf School in Chişinău, Moldova, he learned once more how valuable this work is.

For 19 years now, the Friends of Waldorf Education have been providing educational sponsorships. It became increasingly clear to us that Waldorf schools abroad face one vast and important challenge: to admit children to the schools regardless of their financial background. Many parents can only procure the tuition and fees under great difficulties, but would love to make Waldorf education possible for their children to ensure a healthy upbringing. The purpose of my work with the Friends clearly consists in helping Waldorf schools with this challenge. I firmly believe that Waldorf schools cannot be alternative private schools for the “rich and famous”.

I spend a great deal of my work with excel charts. To be honest, I would hardly see a sense in excel charts, if it was not for the good cause. In this case, they help me bring together educational sponsors and godchildren.  In addition to that, I often speak on the phone – for example with educational sponsors or with my contact persons at the schools – and I read reports on the schools. When I have started working for the Friends, I became aware that the running costs of a Waldorf school could become a persistent problem, in particular abroad. In most countries, Waldorf schools receive only little or even no state funding. One can form only a very limited opinion of the actual situation at a Waldorf School by reading a report or an article. Therefore, I am always grateful when people who have been on site lend me their support. In this way, I can better assess the situation. In May of this year, I was fortunate to myself visit one of the schools in our partner program.

And so I went to Moldova and was warmly welcomed by the teachers, students and parents of the Waldorf School Chişinău. The little country of Moldova is the poorest in Europe. The Waldorf School in Chişinău was founded in 1992 and is one of the first alternative schools and still the only Waldorf School of this country. There are 562 students at this school and three kindergarten groups with 78 children. Grades one to seven have two classes each (two tracks).  From eighth grade on, there is at present only one track for each grade. The school could immediately change from one track to two tracks in the upper grades. The applications far outnumber the possible admissions. There is not enough room to meet the needs. The lack of trained teachers is another big problem, especially in the foreign languages of German, English and French.

Although I do not understand Romanian, I was deeply impressed by the atmosphere the Romanian teacher created during the class: Concentrated work mixed with a lot of laughter and cordiality. Using the German teacher as a translator, I conducted a long conversation with the Romanian teacher. She told me about her work at the school and also that her daughter, who is a student at this school, suffers from cataracts. Together we decided to include her in our partnership program. You will find her description along with a picture on page 43 of this newsletter.

Lidia Directorova is the German teacher at the school. During my visit she made a lot of time for me. From the beginning, she has been the one at this school to put me into contact with the sponsored children. Lidia Directorova officially retired two years ago, but is still active with great commitment. Sometimes I wait impatiently here in the office for a response from a school. My view has changed completely, now that I witnessed firsthand how a contact person like Lidia Directorova not only dedicates herself fully to teaching but also commits herself to defending the many interests of the school, such as by submitting applications to foundations or by organizing special events. It also became clear to me how important it is to support Waldorf Schools that do not have a professional fundraising team because they do not have the financial means.

One of the highlights of my trip was the medieval festival of the school. The commitment and the close relationship between students, teachers, and parents became immediately evident. The songs the music teacher had rehearsed with her students, parents who had sewed costumes and participated as king and queen in the medieval festival – these were wonderful moments. At the festival, former students greeted their teachers with a smile and a warm hug. This is certainly the result of truly living the ideal of a close-knit school community.

It was even more thought provoking to me when I learnt that retired teachers receive a pension equivalent to about 60 Euros per month. Not enough to make ends meet – not even in Moldova.

I had a special conversation with a girl from 10th grade. The girl has been very lucky to receive support from an educational sponsorship since the first grade. Through phone calls with her sponsor I had learned that there is a lively exchange. The girl confirmed this to me and even showed me touching post cards she had received from Germany. I talked to this girl for an hour in fluent English. When I asked her about her wishes for the future, she told me with beaming eyes that she absolutely wants to become an art therapist. I am sure that this strong and hardworking girl will be able to make her dream come true.

More than 800 educational sponsors are enabling schools to meet the important social responsibility of opening the school gates to all children, as far as possible. We would be very pleased to welcome more people, companies or school classes as educational sponsors in order to support Waldorf Schools in this ongoing challenge.

I look forward to receiving an email or a phone call from you.

Fabian Michel
Tel +49 (0)  30 617026 30
Fax +49 (0)  30 617026 33

This text appeared in "Rundbrief - Waldorf Around the World", Issue Fall 2017/Winter 2018, pp 20-21

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