For a learning community in QuarticcioloComunità Educante Quarticciolo
“To get free, escaping is not enough
we have to build together
a world with no masters,
either good or bad.
A happy and honest world
where nobody is bossed.
If this world does not exist
you and I will create it!”.
We intend to carry out an educational plan for our neighbourhood community. Schools, associations and cultural institutions active in the area are to share their efforts. The commitment that each of us takes on to support girls and boys in their growing up needs to find ways of being coordinated in a systematic way.
Our aim is to contribute to the development of each individual. Also, for the people born in Quarticciolo or those who have come to live here, to have the same possibilities as people living in wealthier areas, because “to upgrade” our area means to stop considering the inhabitants of council houses “second class citizens”
To do this we need a community where “the whole group centres around young people. A community who grows “with” them, not just for them; who educates tomorrow’s adults, but also learns from and changes with them”. It is a collective challenge to live well.
During the last months this challenge has become even harder, the situation caused by the pandemic has produced new forms of exclusion. Distance learning is widening the inequalities between those who live in big homes and those who live in overcrowded ones, between those who have an Internet connection and a computer and those who have to make do with a mobile phone, between those who have a good standard of living and those who can barely make ends meet.
Therefore our commitment is even more urgent. None of the people who sign this pact can achieve their goals by themselves: in a learning community, everything is possible together.
Why is a learning community necessary in Quarticciolo?
In Quarticciolo, one of the suburbs of Rome, social marginalisation is higher than in others. Its neighbourhood is made up entirely by ERP (council housing) and the 6000 inhabitants live the typical problems of these areas.
Distance from the city centre, lack of facilities and spaces for people to meet, neglect of both public and private spaces, widespread social and economic difficulties, high unemployment levels become forms of residential segregation.
To live in a “borgata” (council house neighbourhood), still today means statistically having less opportunities to get a job or to be able to buy a house, or also finishing school earlier and having high possibilities of ending up in prison.
The relationship with school is decisive for those who live in these types of areas. Dropping out of school is a combination of various difficulties. Very often those who have had the opportunity of further education are able to try to make it but those who have left school early have to get by all their lives.
According to ISTAT, National Institute for Statistics, the numer of pupils dropping out of school in 2011 in Italy was 14%. However, there was a big imbalance between the North and the South of Italy. Likewise, within the city of Rome there were big differences in all the indicators of wealth and social development between central boroughs and mixed neighbourhoods or collections of buildings which form the outskirts.
Among the different urban areas just inside or outside the ring-road the council house neighbourhoods are those worse off. Quarticciolo has percentages of youngters who leave school as soon as they end middle school – compulsory – three times higher than those of the central urban districts. The drop out rate is also considerably higher than the adjacent Centocelle or Tor Tre Teste, which are characterised by varied levels of social mobility.
It’s not only a problem for those who have less opportunities to achieve a goal, the whole urban organisation will be weakened. Not by chance in neighbourhoods like ours, the percentage of young people who come into contact with criminal groups is very high.
We believe that to effect we have to strengthen the entire educational process. Sport, artistic activities, socializing among peers, becoming computer literate, cultural participation are essential in preventing scholastic alienation.
Collective educational practices are the best antidote to antisocial behaviour at home and outside: learning to get to know oneself and others so as to respect others and obtain self respect and the necessary tools to face difficult lives.
How we aim to take action
Early school leaving in Quarticciolo mirrors the lack of opportunities for youngsters in the area. The marginalization of youngsters in the outer suburbs is an old story that repeats itself,. The risk is to think it is irreversible.
For many years in Rome, examples of grassroots education have undertaken to change this immobility. The first school for workers in the council houses of Via Capo d’Africa, the Montessori in San Lorenzo, Professor Manzi in the juvenile borstal, Albino Bernardini in Pietralata, Gianni Rodari in Trullo, Don Sardelli at Mandrione, and all the grassroots schools and afterschool activities set up in recent years.
We don’t want “our story” to become a pattern in an unlikely tradition, we want to keep alive the energy of experimenting and inclusion represented by these experiences.
Through the recognition of the capabilities and professionalism of each person in the learning community and through sharing good practices and tools, we believe it is possible to change the negative stereotypes which are often used when referring to council house areas.
The liaison between schools in the area is decisive at a time when, according to the community of Sant’Egidio, one out of three children in Rome risks dropping out of school as a result of the difficulties caused by the Covid-19 emergency.
We want to network, exchange information, unite forces as we have been doing informally for months. Several teachers helped with the distribution of groceries last spring, the theatre has just finished an extra collection of educational materials to help with afterschool activities, the people’s gym has supplied tablets for distance learning, to add to the devices supplied by the schools themselves. It’s now necessary to organise this wealth of exchange and mutual support.
What has been a stigma for a century can become a resource for the upgrading of the disadvantaged neighbourhood: the closed and isolated character of its tall apartment blocks is well disposed for organizing distanced open air activities. In a suburban district made up of tall buildings having courtyards is a privilege.
We are convinced that it’s necessary to radically change the perception of a district lacking in resources by giving value to spaces open to the public in the area, by researching its history and furthering the narrating skills of the inhabitants.
With photography, comics strips, theatrical shows in the courtyards, through boxing matches in the squares, with street art, with parkour, with movie arenas. We demand the right to play, to practise sports, to use public spaces. We want to learn, rediscovering together the memory of the places where we live, in order to radically change them.
With every means possible, so nobody remains behind.
La comunità educante Quarticciolo is a network of activists, associations, schools and cultural realities founded in February 2021 to support the learning process of girls and boys in the neighborhood. An educational agreement in a complex and difficult marginal suburb in order that nobody is left out. Recently the educational community has given life to an abandoned unkempt area by transforming it into a park named Modesto Di Veglia where sports and educational activities open to all are done on a daily basis.