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Reggio recognised revolutionary heroes

| October 14, 2011 | 0 Comments

By Lindy Bedborough

The first international Reggio Children Conference in Africa was hosted in June by St Mary’s School, Waverley, in conjunction with The Ridge and Bellavista schools.

The Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga addressed the conference, acknowledging the critical importance of early childhood development in the education of the nation’s children. She added that the Department of Basic Education believes in the principles and the efficacy of the Reggio Emilia approach, whereby children are allowed to explore and address their interests and areas of learning.

Links between the city Reggio Emilia and South Africa’s liberation movement

Well-known personality and son of the late Oliver and Adelaide Tambo, Dali Tambo, spoke about the international solidarity and support for the South African liberation movement given by the people of the city of Reggio Emilia in northern Italy. By the 1970s, the city was actively involved in the promotion of the anti-apartheid movement abroad, and went on to sign a solidarity pact with the African National Congress (ANC) in 1977. Oliver Tambo, then President of the ANC, addressed delegates in the Municipal Theatre of Reggio Emilia at this time. Tambo and other guests were also welcomed in Rome by the then- President of Italy, Alessandro Pertini, and Pope John Paul II.

From 1985 to 1991, Oliver Tambo corresponded with various Reggio Emilia officials, particularly regarding the city’s honouring of Albertina Sisulu (granted honorary citizenship in 1987) and Albert Luthuli. Two streets in Reggio Emilia were dedicated to the struggle against apartheid – Via Alberto Luthuli and Via Soweto Martyrs – and many leading personalities from Africa were welcomed in the city from this time on, including Sam Nujoma, Marcelino dos Santos, Joaquim Chissano, Albertina Sisulu, Stephen Gawe and Miriam Makeba. In 1994, in recognition of the role played during the resistance movement, Reggio Emilia was the only city invited to the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa.

Menzione pleased with Reggio approach in SA His Excellency, Elio Menzione, the Italian Ambassador in South Africa, enthused at the St Mary’s conference about the interactive collaboration between Reggio Emilia and Polokwane, adding that education specialists from Limpopo had visited Reggio Emilia to learn more. He commented on the pioneering role that South Africa – and indeed St Mary’s School, Waverley – is playing in extending the Reggio approach in Africa.

Des Hugo, Head of St Mary’s Junior School, and Tessa Browne¸ who heads the early childhood development phase at St Mary’s, forged links with Reggio Emilia in 2008 when they visited the city. They have since embraced the philosophy that all children are intelligent, and that it is the responsibility of teachers to see what children have to offer and not what they lack. According to the Reggio approach, the child is viewed as both actor and author of her own life, and children are considered to be competent to live, learn, desire, make meaning and to feel ‘part of the world’.

Amelia Gambetti addressed the conference on the topic ‘Children and their extraordinary potentials’. Gambetti is one of the Directors of Preschools and Infant Toddler Centres Istituzione of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia. Emanuela Vercalli, a Co-chair of the Reggio International Network, presented ‘Experiences in Dialogue’ to the delegates. Both speakers were delighted with the level of interest and interaction during the conference.

Over 300 delegates from all sectors of the educational spectrum and from as far afield as Argentina and Singapore attended this ground-breaking conference. As one of the delegates commented: “This conference and the presentations are a highlight of my 20 years in teaching. I am both inspired and excited to implement this approach with the little people with whom I am privileged to interact.”

Lindy Bedborough is Head of Marketing
at St Mary’s, Waverley, Johannesburg.

Category: Spring 2011

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