Empowering our children, not oppressing them
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - January 31, 2019 - 12:00am

(Part I)

In front of the operation Brotherhood Montessori headquarters in Greenhills is the holy monuments of the Holy Family Shrine depicting Jesus, aged 12 amazing the important scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem with his superior knowledge of everything. Standing behind Him were His parents Joseph and Mary looked relieved for they had lost Him for three days. He simply reminded them, “Don’t you know that I have to be about My Father’s business.” Mary kept quiet pondering on the mysterious wisdom of the Child.

The hidden treasures of childhood that leads to the destiny of the nation

In a way Jesus’ self-confidence is appropriate for His age. The Montessori “Periods of the Construction of Man” is divided into four parts, consisting of six years for each stage of child development. It matches what UNESCO cites as the Education for the 21st Century and its 4 Pillars. Birth to 6 years, Pillar 1 “Learning to Be” when the child with the Absorbent Mind can speak and learn to walk all by himself.

Note how our OFW babies in Italy or France readily absorb the local language. Pillar II, 6 to 12 years old “Learning to Learning” is marked by an enormous reasoning power and strong moral sense and judgment.

For the past five decades our grade school children have exhibited a high sense of initiative and responsibility in our school scouting projects. At 12 to 18, Pillar III, adolescence whereby “Learning to Earn” demands a curriculum of occupational skills for economic independence. Our Operation Brotherhood Professional High School has successfully taught our students the Culinary Arts specializing in Asian dishes, producing best-selling marmalades and sausages and providing formal sit-down banquet service since 1984. Pillar IV “Learning to Live in Harmony with one another” is adulthood when one gets employed between 18 to 24 years.

The Philippine Plan of Action for the Child Beyond 2000

In January 1995, at the League of Nations in Geneva Switzerland, I joined Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Alma de Leon, who headed an 11-member Philippine delegation to present an official report on the accomplishments of the Philippine government in raising the level of protection of the rights of Filipino children before the UN International Committee for the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) panel of analysts chaired by Mrs. Honda Badran of Egypt.

The report called “The Philippine Plan of Action for the Child Beyond 2000 (PPAC)” drawn up by President Fidel V. Ramos himself covered the major areas affecting childhood from birth to adolescence.

The Philippine delegation was made up of Rep. Leonor Ines Luciano, a former Justice of the Court of Appeals and legal expert on child abuse cases and Rep. Teresa Aquino Oreta, adviser on legislative concerns of women and children. Undersecretaries of DECS Erlinda Pefianco, DOH Dr. Carmencita Reodica, of DILG   Yolanda de Leon, DSWD-Bureau of Child and Youth Welfare Director Lourdes G. Balanon, DOJ State Counsel Atty. Merceditas Guttierez, and DOLE Deputy Director of the Institute of Labor Studies Reydeluz D. Conferido. Cristina “Nina” Yuzon, president of the Early Learning Center and I as president of Operation Brotherhood Montessori Center and Philippine STAR columnist represented non-governmental agencies, tasked to help the public information campaign on Children’s Rights.

The urgency of linking child rights to adult human rights

The Philippines was among the first group of 61 countries to sign the Convention on the Rights of the Child which had been unanimously approved by the United Nations General Assembly on Nov. 20, 1989.

The Philippine Senate ratified it within a year. In 1995 another 65 countries have volunteered to also sign the Charter.

The Charter was devised to balance “the two poles of humanity,” namely the children and the adults. For decades, efforts in the world body were primarily directed to protecting the rights and concerns of grown-ups. There are now 54 articles in the international instrument designed to preserve justice peace and freedom.

Most of the UN CRC committee members happen to be barristers and lawyers who acknowledged the mounting evidence of hardship and abuses suffered by children.

Among the facts established by the UN are the following: Abandonment by their families of 100 million children who subsist only by back-breaking work or by turning to petty crime, prostitution or begging; the spectacle of over 50 million children working under unsafe or unhealthy conditions; 120 million children between the ages of 6 and 11 are deprived of schooling; about 3.5 million children die yearly of diseases which could be prevented or cured; some 155 million children under five in developing countries live in absolute poverty; millions including many in the richer nations are maltreated or neglected, are sexually exploited or become victims of drug abuse.

The universal oppression

In 1926 Dr. Montessori in a lecture on Education and Peace to the League of Nations in Geneva, said: “All over the world, in every land – civilized and uncivilized – there is an on-going disastrous oppression of the weak by the strong. Devastating in its effect because it is unconsciously exercised and therefore unintentional. It is indeed the strangest kind of oppression because those who exercise it love those whom they oppress, and wish rather to help them than to hinder them. Furthermore the oppressed, for the most part, love their oppressors. Parents, nursemaids, governess, teachers – in fact all those who have to do with children are the guilty ones. Yet in a sense, they are not guilty, because it is all a tragedy of misunderstanding.”

In her biography, her friend and disciple E.M. Standing stated “Looking back over her long experience, and taking into account the results which have invariably followed the introduction of her method in a score of different countries during a period of 30 years, Dr. Montessori came to see with a peculiar vividness this picture of the child misunderstood. The rapidity and enthusiasm with which her method was welcomed in every part of the world, and the uniformity of the results obtained, were to her the clearest evidence of the ubiquity of this oppression. Everywhere the Montessori ideas on being put into professional practice, have acted as a liberating force, setting free a new type of child, in place of the one oppressed and misunderstood.”

 (Part II – “The Struggle Between the Child and the Adult”)

(For feedback email to precious.soliven@yahoo.com)

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