Islands of Education Amid the City’s Maelstrom
(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 178-179, Note the Copyright!)
In 1954 several acquainted families, immigrants from Germany, began meeting to study the basics of Waldorf Education. A little while later Mr and Mrs Schmidt visited Germany where they persuaded teachers Karl and Ida Ulrich to come and found São Paulo’s first Waldorf School. They came in January 1956 and on 27 February Karl Ulrich took on a Class 1 with 13 children and Ida Ulrich the kindergarten group with 16 children in the newly-founded Higienópolis School. That Class 1 grew to 26 children immediately after the first midsummer festival, and the school became a centre of culture. Karl Ulrich put on musical events with choir and orchestra, he gave painting and modelling courses and lectured on anthroposophy.
Beginning in Sao Paulo
Initially the intention was to run the school up to Class 4 only, but when the moment came the parents insisted that it should be carried further. More and more children arrived and soon the building in the centre of the city was too small. So in 1958 the school association bought a larger plot of land in the southern part of the city. Parallel classes were established and as the years went by one building after another was put up. At first the main lessons were in German with the specialist subjects being taught in Portuguese, but in 1974 it was agreed that all the lessons should be in Portuguese with German and English as foreign languages. On 1 October 1957 the school received official recognition as a state school up to Class 4. Regarding the middle school it was agreed that recognition could be granted as a school “equivalent” to state schools, which meant that the school could continue to work in accordance with the Waldorf curriculum. In 1973 work began on building the upper school which has, meanwhile, also been granted official recognition.
Brazil’s education legislation was radically reformed in 1996, with important suggestions being taken from UNESCO’s Delors Report (1). The new laws allow for much freedom as to the curriculum and recognition of all special subjects which are a part of Waldorf Education.
As the school grew, teacher training became increasingly urgent. Initially trainee teachers attended the Waldorf seminar in Stuttgart, Germany. But once Portuguese had been introduced as the language for the main lessons it became necessary to train teachers in Brazil. In 1970 introductory courses for parents run by Rudolf and Marianne Lanz developed into a training seminar for Waldorf teachers. This teacher training seminar in São Paulo has been officially recognized since 1998 and can issue diplomas for teachers from Classes 1 to 8 enabling them to teach also at any primary or secondary school in Brazil. There are four other in-service training schemes dotted around the country.
From a school for immigrants to a Brazilian education movement
Over the years, with increasing numbers of children wanting to attend the Rudolf Steiner School, as it came to be called in 1976, other Waldorf Schools were founded. The second one in São Paulo, Colégio Micael, opened its doors in 1976 and moved to the edge of the city in 1983. Today its classes range from kindergarten to upper school. In 1983 two teachers from the Rudolf Steiner School founded the Escola Waldorf São Paulo which also ranges from kindergarten to upper school.
Since São Paulo is a gigantic city (with 20 million inhabitants in the year 2000) a fourth school was founded in a northern district in 1985, the Francisco de Assis School, which so far has only a lower and middle range of classes.
During the 1990s six more schools were founded further inland, 3 more in the state of Minas Gerais, 1 in Florianópolis in the south and 1 in Cuiabá in the west which runs an ecological project in the upper school and has developed a vocational training for agriculture and ecology advisers. Then there is a school at Fortaleza in the north-east, a new foundation in Brasilia, the capital city, and 1 at Nova Friburgo, Rio de Janeiro.
Waldorf Education and social work in the favelas
Admirable social work has been carried out at the Centro Comunitário Monte Azul by Ute Craemer and her colleagues since 1973, and the Colégio Waldorf Micael also does social work with poor children in its neighbourhood. Other initiatives are also devoted to underprivileged children.
The Waldorf School Vale de Luz at Nova Friburgo teaches children from the favelas (80%) as well as those from the city (20%). The Araucária School at Camanducaia works with the children of poor potato planters and small farmers, and the Projeto Salvador at Salvador de Bahia offers artistic activities for poor children. The CREAR Initiative (Centro Recreativo Educacional Artistico Renascer) at Capão Bonito also works with favela children. All these initiatives are supported by friends in Brazil and from abroad and by the Friends of Waldorf Education.
Curative education still in its infancy
The work of curative education is still in its infancy in Brazil and awaits further development.
Waldorf Education is very highly regarded by the public in Brazil, and the Waldorf teacher training seminar in São Paulo is recognized by the state. As time goes on more and more people will get to know and appreciate this education.
1 Jacques Delors: “Learning: The Treasure Within - Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century.” UNESCO 1998.
The Monte Azul Community Association
This Association has been working educationally, medically, culturally and socially in three of São Paulo’s favelas since 1973. Day centres for children, training workshops, a school for disabled children, a health centre and a cultural centre provide opportunities for over one thousand children and youngsters to realize their potential, lead their lives with dignity, and perhaps help to transform the favela environment.
The work is based on Waldorf Education, an anthroposophically extended practice of medicine and Rudolf Steiner’s social ideas. The sources of inspiration are anthroposophy on the one hand, and on the other an intimate sharing in and observing of the reality of favela life and that of the great city of São Paulo and of Brazil as parts of humanity as a whole.
Class teacher at the São Paulo School. Chair-person of the Brazilian Federation of Waldorf Schools. Adviser to new Waldorf initiatives.
Studied Waldorf Education. Teacher in Paris and São Paulo. Since 1979 establishing the educational and community centre of the Monte Azul Favela.