Brazil: Vale de Luz
Renovation work to keep the Vale de Luz Waldorf School in Brazil open
Due to the pandemic and related new government regulations for in-classroom teaching, the Vale De Luz Waldorf School has had to undertake some renovation work. The classrooms need to be adapted to the new conditions with more space and better air circulation. Also, one of the regulations is to have more toilets per child. Actually, neither the financial means nor the time were sufficient to fulfil all the new health regulations in time. Therefore, the school has agreed with the authorities and the school community to begin with the concrete renovation works in the classrooms and to complete the remaining regulations after February 2022.
Until now, they have not completed the renovation work. In the school kitchen as well as in the cafeteria and the pantry more work needs to be done. They also still need to adapt a part of the students' courtyard. The fundraising campaigns have not been sufficient to carry out all the work. Therefore, the school has been given a temporary permit for the last few implementations, which will soon expire.
According to the new hygiene regulations, the room where the food for the children is prepared, the place where the food is stored and the place where the pupils take their meals must meet certain criteria regarding size, equipment and hygiene. The same applies to the courtyard and the toys, as well as to the wall of the school grounds. So far, there is only a hedge, which needs to be replaced by a wall. The school wants to keep the hedge inside the wall to allow the children to continue to experience and have contact with nature.
In total, the school still lacks about 40,000 Euros to fulfil all the necessary measures.
About the project:
Vale de Luz is a Waldorf school in the city of Nova Friburgo in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro, which has been giving its students, most of whom come from low-income families, a holistic education since 1991. Unlike many other Waldorf schools in Brazil, Vale de Luz has a social function and the school is financed exclusively through donations, partnerships and state support. The families of the students do not have to pay any school fees.
A total of about 125 children and young people between the ages of 3 and 12 attend the kindergarten or primary school up to grade 5. In addition to the official curriculum, artistic activities such as painting, drawing, music, theatre and cooking are offered.
Almost all the children come from underprivileged neighbourhoods in the city of Nova Friburgo. The families usually do not have a stable structure. Many mothers are very young, many fathers are completely absent, either because they do not take care of their children after childbirth or separations, or because they are in prison - a very common scenario as the community is plagued by drug trafficking and many of the families are victims of this environment. 35% of the families rely on government assistance to survive. These are programmes for families in extreme poverty with a monthly per capita family income of up to 105 Brazilian Real (about 20 euros per month) and for families in poverty with a monthly family income per person of up to 210 Brazilian Real (about 40 euros per month).
About one in five students attending the Vale de Luz Waldorf School has special needs (e.g. children with autism or intellectual disabilities).
After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, no more face-to-face classes could take place. Every month, the school's staff have been distributing printed lesson plans and baskets of food to the families to support them during this sad and difficult time. Due to the pandemic, there are new regulations from the local government that make it much more difficult to return to face-to-face classroom teaching. The school has had and still has to do renovations to adapt the classrooms to the new conditions. More space is needed, better air circulation and the number of toilets per child needs to be increased.
After extensive fundraising campaigns by the school, the renovation work in the classrooms was successfully completed, so that it has received permission to welcome the children back in person from February 2022. The return was accompanied by joy, but also by great challenges.
The challenges are both educational - as many children have learning deficits and psychological problems due to the losses and difficulties of the past years - and infrastructural, as the renovation and adaptation works in the classrooms were the first part of what needs to be done to adapt the school to the new health standards. Still missing are the renovations of the room where food is prepared for the students, the place where food is stored and the place where the children eat. The inner courtyard also needs to be extended and an outer wall added.