“We are preparing to celebrate two important birthdays. In 2019, we will celebrate the 30th birthday of the Convention on the rights of the child and in 2020 we will celebrate 150 years since Dr. Maria Montessori was born. She was a huge supporter of childrens’ rights. That work informed all she did all through her life. She spoke about the need for people to recognise that young people, children, have needs that are different from adults and need different support mechanisms. 30 years ago, in a very unusual show of global solidarity, the countries of the world adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. That Convention captured an awful lot of what Montessori had been advocating for a long time.
There has been a tremendous amount of progress for children in the last 30 years. Many fewer children die before they reach their fifth birthday. Many more have access to clean water, many more are better nourished than they ever were before. Diseases such as small pox and polio have been eradicated. Most importantly, more children are in school than at any time in history. All positive, but there is a lot more that we still need to do.
These two birthdays coming together offers the opportunity to do two things:
To think about how to best prepare children for an uncertain and unpredictable future. I don’t think any generation previous to this has had such a deluge of information to deal with. No generation has had to struggle so much to understand what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is false, what is real and what is not. Our job is to help them make those sorts of decisions. I think this is where Montessori comes in to its own. Maria Montessori changed the world for children, we can do the same.
A few months ago, in Mexico, a group of senior Montessorians from across the world considered how best to celebrate the birthday of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They put together a statement that reiterates and repeats Maria Montessori’s commitment and AMI’s commitment to the rights of the child. I think we can do two things with that.
I would ask all of you to take that statement, bring it to the attention to your NGO partners and particularly partners in government, reminding them of their obligations to children under that Convention. Advocate to them where the gaps are in meeting the rights of children in their communities and countries.
But also, look into our classrooms, see how we can help children understand what their rights are. How best they can articulate and gain those rights. If we do that, we are not only preparing children who are better informed, who make better decisions in the future, but we are also leaving the legacy that all of us in Montessori, in AMI, have inherited from Maria Montessori herself.”
Philip O'Brien • AMI President Emeritus• 10th of November 2019