When it all began 30 years ago, the mountain population hardly knew what a school even was and lived in drafty clay cottages. The first students came mostly on foot, some on horseback sometimes from places 10 kilometers away. The Waldorf School Escola Araucária in Campo Verde in the state of Minas Gerais now serves about 150 students in kindergarten and nine grades. The School Association funds part-time teacher training seminars and rewards participation with a regular salary.
Everything began at the end of the 1980’s when a German emigrant initiated the purchase of a run-down piece of land in Serra da Mantiqueira that was subsequently restored. Campo Verde is a settlement, an hour’s drive over bad roads away from Camanducaia city, which in turn is two and a half hours away from Sao Paulo by bus. At that time, the inhabitants of the mountains were living in drafty clay cottages under circumstances of regular frost. The children were malnourished and almost all full of parasites. There was anthrax and leprosy, but no school.
The appeal to the authorities was in vain. Therefore, the founders built the first simple buildings themselves. What followed was a grueling battle over three years and there were many conditions the school had to follow. Finally, the authorities recognized the initiative as Camanducaia Community School. And yet there were always obstacles: the grants were inadequate and subject to the whim of the current mayor, the school superintendent listened in secret under the windows, to check if the school would follow the state curriculum and much more.
Over the years, Waldorf education was introduced. With the help of the school superintendent, the school was able to convince the mayor and council that the state of Minas Gerais should pass a new school law that allowed schools to choose the educational curriculum by themselves. Under the new advanced education law, a school inspector visited the school and the district government was ecstatic: “Today we see that the school had been ahead of the new law for a long time!”
In 2002, the school received a certificate of honor from the community council for outstanding community and environmental work. As a regular project, students collect truckloads of garbage lying around in the countryside. One day, a regional TV station made a documentary about the school, which has already been shown on many channels throughout Brazil.
Subsequently the teachers began receiving a small government salary, and for the first time the communal authorities paid a farmer with an off-road vehicle to drive the most secluded living children to school.
When the school began 40 years ago, most mountain inhabitants were still living in clay huts, and today, the elementary school teachers are building a traditional clay house according to the old custom. What a wonderful and unexpected adventure!
And one more reason for joy: so far none of the former students has moved away to the slums of the large cities. On the contrary, a large part now receives higher education. The first children of mountain farmers can now study at university!