Desk Friends: Support a Class or a Teacher in Benin
Italy Education to Global Citizenship
The “Desk Friends” project stems from the desire to guarantee the right to education in countries where studying is a “luxury for the few” and not a right for all children.
Schools in Benin are very crowded, ranging from 40 to 80 children per class. For teachers it is therefore difficult to follow all the students and often children arrive in the third or fourth grade without being able to read or write. The lack of solid training and continuous updating results in poor and inefficient education. Furthermore, uncertain remuneration and teaching disincentives make the school system weaker and weaker. The solution is in private schools, mostly run by religious bodies, which offer a good structure and valid programs. However, the cost of these private institutions is prohibitive for over 90% of the population.
Aleimar’s many years of experience in various countries around the world, the analysis of the need of the local area and the consolidated activity carried out in Italian schools, has led to the creation of “Desk Friends”, an educational project aimed at kindergartens, primary and middle schools.
The Italian classes that want to join the project are proposed twinning with a class from a school in Benin. The class in Benin receives, in addition to the educational material collected, financial support from the Italian twinned school. This economical support is used to purchase school uniforms and especially contributes to the canteen, which often provides the only meal of the day for many children. An intercultural notebook will be the vehicle for exchanging messages, drawings, photos and dreams that Italian and Beninese children would like to share. The project, active since 2007, has involved so far about 80 classes in 50 schools and currently sees around 15 twinned Italian classes.
The project involves the implementation of activities on two fronts: in Italian schools and in Beninese schools.
Activities in Italy:
- A first presentation meeting of the project, screenings of a DVD, illustrating glimpses of everyday life in comparison, and the delivery of an intercultural notebook that “travels” between the Italian class and the twinned one as a common thread, conveying messages that children and teenagers want to exchange. The notebook will include all the work of the students (drawings, poems, stories, photographs) who want to speak about the different ways of experiencing everyday life in each country. The other symbol of the project is a piggy bank. Built by children for children, it represents the object where action, help and involvement take shape. Classes that decide to support the project commit to collecting a minimum amount of 150 euros per year.
- A second meeting to update and deepen the understanding of intercultural issues, to promote Aleimar and its projects, in a concrete and conscious way.
Activities in Benin:
- Visits to the Beninese schools at least twice a year, to deliver and comment the material prepared by Italian schools (translating any texts).
- Economic support for local schools and, where possible, starting agreements with local institutions for partial co-financing of management costs.
- Interventions on the local territory involving local authorities or parents’ associations to promote the expansion of existing schools or, if necessary, the construction of new ones.
Goals of the project
- To create the foundations for a culture of solidarity between children and the education of world citizenship (ECM).
- To create a link between younger generations, aimed at a relationship of knowledge and friendship that brings two worlds together.
- To promote the right to education.
- To support the construction and management of foreign schools involved in the project.
- To guarantee a salary for teachers from foreign schools, encouraging efficient and qualified education, according to the Millennium Goals (SDGs goal 4).
- To train and update local teachers for a better management of the students.
Beneficiaries of the project
- 200 orphans or children from poor and needy families, and their teachers.