During the years 2005 and 2006, EQ ran a project – “Green Schooling as an Alternative to the Summer Green School’ – with the support of the British Government.
The team works in close proximity to the Bulgarian educational establishment and is aware of the ever-present resentment demonstrated by those working in the state system towards other ‘educators’ and a widespread tendency to denigrate informal youth work. The project was an important component of our ongoing campaign to help eradicate the austerity and authoritarian standoffishness of many Bulgarian city schools.
Schools in affluent neighbourhoods tend to organize summer “green schools” during which children are taken into rural areas and especially those close to significant cultural heritage sites. We argue that the teachers tend to be ill-prepared for engagement with Nature and seriously disinclined to react meaningfully with the community that the party has entered. It can easily be argued that “green schools” add little to the educational experience of the students other than the sense of undertaking an extended excursion. It is unfortunate that children from underprivileged communities are deprived of this style of extracurricular activity mainly because of the costs involved.
Our aim was to demonstrate that any land/cityscape and the community containing a school represent significant educational resources. We created a model of green schooling that extended throughout the academic year, employed local non-pedagogical service providers, dovetailed with the academic curriculum and was eminently affordable.
Needing to demonstrate community-based education, we were helped in our venture by the founder of Community Action Nepal. He is one of the best in the world at what he does and has been honoured by the British queen. Doug Scott CBE, mountaineer extraordinaire, is a man of huge stature.
He could provide a very practical demonstration of how an ostensibly underprivileged community can impact on the quality of local education and the extent to which youth activity impacts on community development.
Doug and David (our CEO) shared the platform on two occasions during September, 2005 – once near Teteven and again in Ruse. Community based youth projects undertaken in a cluster of mountain villages – Glozhene, Glogovo and Cherni Vit were being used by us to exemplify our philosophy.
But, what on earth had a Himalayan climber and the eastern country of Nepal got to do with Bulgaria and our educational objectives?
We wanted an individual who wasn’t only an adventurer but a student of human culture who respected the communities he entered and empathized with their systems of belief. We wanted a person who was passionate about wilderness preservation and the protection of indigenous cultures but who was also rational and pragmatic – someone capable of demonstrating real practical examples of how to mobilize small communities around a central idea.
This is the reason why we asked Doug to come to Bulgaria.
On both evenings, Doug explained the work of CA Nepal and how he came to found the organization. This was followed from a slide presentation entitled “Sacred Summits”. We’re sophisticated people – we know that Buddhists, Hindus, Native Americans and others consider mountains to be sacred. What has that got to do with Bulgaria?
Our project logo was
Adventure + Responsibility = Equilibrium
Equilibrium is brand of Community Action recognizes the crucial role of children and young people who are –
- Motivated by a thirst for adventure
- Given the space to undertake that adventure
When given the opportunity to explore as a means to learning –
- Kids will exercise their brains
- They will also fill their hearts
A great, great teacher once said: “Teachers are supposed to exercise their student’s brains. But, if they can’t reach their hearts once in a while, they should go find another job.”
During both evenings, Doug was our teacher. He left us inspired.