The EsF Assembly, held at the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch, South Africa, brought together a record number of 95 delegates from all parts of the globe.  The Sustainability Institute was a perfect fit with the Assembly theme:  Strengthening Community for a Sustainable Future. Each day started with community work, with participants joining in the daily practice of starting the day together with activities at the institute such as gardening, kitchen duties and sweeping. The group then came back together to start off with a song by some of the African participants, followed by presentations, reading, workshops and working groups.   

Among the speakers who joined for the full two weeks were: 

  • Susan Nyaga, Mother Tongue Learning Specialist at SIL  
  • Nafisa Baboo, Senior Inclusive Education Advisor at Light for the World  

  • Alain Tschudin, Executive Director Good Governance Africa  

  • Adele Diamond, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience    

  • Anne Kelly, Montessori Dementia Consultant  

 Other speakers that joined for a number of days included Linda Biersteker, Early Childhood Programming Specialist, Mignon Hardie, Executive Director of FUNDZA and Shadrick Mazaza, the founder of the African Consciousness Institute.   

Some of the participants joined a working group to brainstorm together and come up with an approach to fit EsF’s mission and vision on the following topics: A Guide to Engaging Communities; Communications and Messaging, Building Partnerships and a Statement on Sustainability. At the end of the Assembly, the groups came together to present their work to the larger group. The groups came up with valuable ideas and statements as guiding documents for EsF.   

As with every Assembly, participants generously shared their work and ideas for the future. Participants presented their work in different communities, ranging from the remote Eastern Cape in South Africa to Maasai girls in Kenya and impoverished communities in Ireland.  Another participant presented her idea to make a documentary on EsF initiatives and showed a beautiful video she produced from interview clips made during the Assembly.   

On the last day, participants shared their reflections and the day ended with a lovely dinner with more incredible singing and dancing. Participants shared that they felt highly inspired, committed and empowered to bring Montessori to more children, some of their reflections are listed below:

"The people, the presentations, the workshops, the reading groups, the one on one discussions, the place, the hospitality, the food, the tears, the laughter, the friendships formed, the network built, the singing, the dancing, the wisdom of the old, the energy of the youth, the love for humanity, the passion, the hope, the change agents, the educateurs sans frontières. What a life changing experience! My heart is full."

“I am still recovering from and reminiscing on how impactful our experience in South Africa was. I observed the passion and intensity the designer placed on ensuring that the visual presentation was inviting even to a reluctant eater. He would place an object on the table, pull back adjusting it multiple times to see how it fitted his vision for the final presentation… Bringing this to the concept of education as l think of it, we should carefully evaluate and design our platters as we attempt to nourish the minds of the children we serve.” 

"Their stories are powerful statements of persistence, determination, and dedication. Never underestimate the strength of a committed Montessorian to change their world. These people are already having a powerful impact on their communities."

“I was able to hear how ordinary people are doing such extraordinary things to build communities for those of all ages. A Montessori inspired movement connecting families, children and communities to build a positive cultural movement for a sustainable future. For me, it was truly a life changing experience to be part of the 6th EsF Assembly.”