From the very founding impulse of the Waldorf movement, this has been both an educational and a social impulse. Even if this double impulse is not always and everywhere translated into practical life, it is inherent in Waldorf education. However, it is precisely in the poorer countries of the global south, where Waldorf schools receive no state subsidies, that the financing of the schools becomes a problem. The fact that some Waldorf schools in such countries have a majority of wealthy parents is precisely because the salaries and running costs of the schools and their buildings can only be financed through parents' contributions. This would immediately be different if the right to school diversity and parental choice were anchored in the country constitutions and if, as a consequence of this constitutional obligation, independent school boards also had corresponding financial claims against the state. The anchoring of these rights at a constitutional remains - so it seems at present - a dream. But do independent schools have to remain exclusive? Must independent schools remain the preserve of wealthy parents?
It is clear that under these economic circumstances the Waldorf impulse can only be partially realised. For the Waldorf impulse is based on the idea that people can become capable of peace if they grow up together and learn together from an early age, if people make friends with each other from an early age, and if this creates an ability and a capacity to talk to each other that continues into adulthood. We all know only too well that these cross-layer conversations are rare in adulthood and tend to become increasingly rare. That is why it seems so important to us that the social side of the Waldorf impulse is actively seized.
But how can one seize this social impulse? Everything that one wants to achieve practically in the world to change the living conditions needs funding. Although in many European countries we are currently being pushed towards the opinion that the state is responsible for financing education and upbringing, it is also possible to have the opinion, as is natural in North America or in many Asian countries, that education and upbringing is the primary task of parents, and thus an immensely important task of civil society. With this view, education and upbringing become tasks for which each individual is responsible, and not just "the state". A free education system is a task of civil society that can be achieved through civil society engagement. Everyone can make a free education system possible who is practically committed to it.
One of the most beautiful ways of dealing with money is to give it as a gift. In our country, people are extremely generous when it comes to emergencies. For example, the German Donations Council was able to determine for the year 2022 that despite inflation and crises, the amount of gifts given by private individuals increased compared to the previous year. Many people like to give and make gifts. Presumably this is because many people want to make a difference and know very well that they can make a difference through giving.
If Waldorf schools in countries without state funding want to take in children from disadvantaged backgrounds, then this is always possible if, on the one hand, the teachers have developed the corresponding attentiveness and, on the other hand, if the necessary funds are available. Without the attention of the school communities and without the social commitment of both the individual teachers and the school communities it is, of course, not possible. But without the financial means, it won't work either.
For this reason, we at the Friends of Waldorf Education have set up the education sponsorship programme. In a global world, we can also have a global impact. From here we can ensure that in Tanzania, in Kenya, in Brazil, in Peru, or in Poland and Moldova, children from disadvantaged backgrounds can attend a Waldorf school, if the respective school communities are open to children from the most diverse backgrounds. I would like to commend to you this powerfully effective gift for the right of children to education, and thank all those who want to participate and work in a global dimension for the healthy and free growing up of children.