Maestra Sandra Maldonado Baur de Rivero Borrell is a distinguished educator from Mexico. Committed to building a Culture of Peace through education, Mtra. de Rivero founded the Baur system of education in 1970. Today, she is the President of the Baur Cultural Foundation and Director-General of the three Carol Baur Schools, two in Mexico City and one in Querétaro. For her outstanding work as an educator, Maestra Sandra has received recognition both nationally and internationally. Among the medals that she has been awarded are the Golden Palms Special Award to Education, the Ignacio Manuel Altamirano Medal, the FEU Medal from Cuba, and the University of Havana Medal.
In this months feature, Mtra. Sandra talks to us about how involvement of the students (and parents) in community service, BIMUN and videoconferencing help broaden their perspectives, foster multicultural understanding and teach them to give to those who have less.
Q. Can you tell us briefly about the Carol Baur schools?
The first Carol Baur School was established by me in 1970, supported by the Baur Cultural Foundation. It was inspired by my mother, Maestra Carolina Baur, who in 1922, worried about the rights of the children of women prisoners, founded a home for them. Going ahead of her times, she promoted their academic and social education, and used pedagogical methods for their emotional rehabilitation. Today, there are three Carol Baur Schools -- two in Mexico City and one in Querétaro. The two schools in Mexico City extend from kindergarten to high school while the one in Querétaro currently goes up to primary school. The high school section will open there in the next academic year 2004-2005. All the schools operate under the Baur System.
The Baur schools are fairly small in population with the total number of children studying from kindergarten to elementary in the three schools at 1200. In secondary and high school we have a total of 400 students. On the whole, there are slightly more girls than boys in our schools. We also have more professional women staff than men.
Though we started with children of the disadvantaged and very little resources, most of our students today come from middle class families. Our aim remains taking care of the needs of all the children regardless of their creed or their social status. So we do have children of different status.
We firmly believe that we shouldnt divide children. Therefore, besides the academic programme offered by the school, we have other activities that bridges the gap between different groups of children by bringing the more advantaged closer to the disadvantaged.
Q. Can you explain that a little bit more?
Planting the seeds of service in our students is an underlying philosophy of the Baur System. We have developed activities that take our students to areas where they can be exposed to children who are disadvantaged, and interact with them. We also have activities for educating parents so that they, together with the school, join together in giving service to the community.
We have many social work activities that are meant to raise the childrens and parental awareness on human rights. We have wall papers that we use to educate parents on various issues. The wall papers [as the name suggests] are charts that contain information on a different topic every week. Parents themselves contribute to these topics. The purpose is to raise awareness so that they would be willing to do something about changing the situation. The topics are chosen according to the needs of the children, parents and community.
In addition, once a week, a group of parents volunteer with their children to visit communities where children live in extreme poverty such as the slums, garbage dumps and so on. They send food to many institutions every month, such as:
- Mano de Ayuda (Afiliate of Northwest Medical Teams International) who takes care of the children of people that work and live in the garbage dumps.
- Fundación Familiar Infantil IAP. We created this foundation for the children of women prisoners and people of the Bordo de Xochiaca garbage dump.
- Cotolengo, Amecameca.
- Casa San Benito Neza.
- Sierra Gorda de Querétaro.
- Our students also have literacy project in several communities.
Another very interesting activity is the art class where the best paintings of our students are exhibited to their parents who buy these works. This money is donated to children with AIDS.
Community service is part of a series of activities that are meant to help students realize that they are part of a broader world.
Q. What other activities do you have to promote a global world view in your students and their understanding of human rights?
Baur Educational System promotes human rights as the foundation of a fair, tolerant and better world through respect for humanity and nature. As early as 1951, my mother Maestra Carolina formulated the "Ten Rights of the Mexican Child". These ten rights continue to guide us at the Carol Baur schools and Foundation.
At the Carol Baur schools, we stress learning through discovery and enjoyment (we call this the process of Living Knowledge). We educate children to love life by giving them a wide variety of experiences and knowledge that enables them to think, feel and act according to the needs of the twenty-first century while rendering themselves to the service of humanity.
One way we do this is by getting our students involved actively in fora where they can discuss and debate issues relating to human rights. For example, the Carol Baur Foundation is a co-organiser of the Student Conference on Human Rights together with others such as the Global Education Motivators (GEM). The Conference is hosted by the United Nations Department of Public Information in New York.
We also co-organise the Baur International Model United Nations (BIMUN) in Mexico City annually. Over 700 high school and university students from various countries of the world, together with teachers and other international personalities, come together to debate on topical issues taken from the agenda of the United Nations and other international organizations, conferences and world summits. A well-known international model, BIMUN offers young people a meaningful experience in decision making, debating and reaching agreements as representatives of different countries. It is a forum where students can state their countrys point of view on a given international issue in a respectful and friendly environment. It is also a valuable means of learning about other cultures through promoting the values of respect and tolerance, two traits that are desirable in all truly engaged future professionals. Delegates at BIMUN debate in English or Spanish depending on their assignment.
Q. To what extent do you use modern technology for promoting human rights and global peace?
These last 50 years that I have dedicated to education, I have had the chance to live and watch the changing world scenario, getting to know the current needs of humankind in a century where technology, science and human development go hand in hand. Society in the 21st century has used technological development for warlike purposes aimed at acquiring power and forgetting the real needs of people. Nevertheless, we must bear in mind that technology has allowed us to know about international problems.
Undoubtedly, videoconferences are an incredible means to bring the world into the classrooms. Although our schools have already participated in several videoconferences on a wide variety of topics, they never cease to amaze us. Not only the students but the teachers as well, hardly believe they are connected with several sites all around the world, and that they are not only being seen but can actually interact with them first hand.
But preparing for a videoconference is a long process which starts by motivating the students and making them fully aware of the fact that they will all be considered as ambassadors of their country. As a teacher, it involves the considerable responsibility of carefully guiding students so they make the best out of each opportunity learning about other cultures. At the Human Rights Conference, videoconferencing is used to link up the UN Headquarters in New York with students from various schools in Mexico City.
Videoconferences can be extremely useful and explicit when educators want to know about specific topics from people directly involved or affected by it. Such was the case of a videoconference on "War Affected Children". This gave us a first hand testimonial on the horrors of war and its impact on children.
We have also been part of UN videoconferences about problems or challenges that humanity faces nowadays like sustainable development, environmental protection, weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism. These experiences proved to be very helpful in the process of making our students aware that theirs are only some of the problems that humankind must solve if we want to live a culture of peace.
Seeing helpless people whose rights are violated, whose bodies have been maimed or tortured, people who have been forced to leave their homes and become refugees, or simply those who can barely survive in conditions of extreme poverty make our privileged students realize how fortunate they are, and how much they owe society. In this way they appreciate what they have and become more tolerant. They learn to accept and enjoy diversity and multiculturalism and most importantly, are willing to do something to make this a better world for all.
Q. What lessons have you learnt from your experience that you would want to share with teachers in other countries?
Now, more than ever, the world is living in great uncertainty and anguish due to wars. This is why teachers and school heads within the Baur System are deeply committed to kindle the love of life and the joy of living for their students. It is important to create a school of happy children who
- Are capable of enjoying learning
- Are supported by their parents and teachers
- Feel useful and important
- Have all the didactic elements to interact in a global world
Educating children towards a culture of peace is accepting the life challenges of committing our reason and values to the service of humankind while living with tolerance, respect and justice.
Through the complexity of our indigenous people, we understood how they enjoy everything around them with love, laughter, songs, and dance. They embrace life fully while surrounded by forests, lakes, waterfalls, star filled skies, and soil, always waiting for the seeds, cared for by their tough, strong hands... as if nature brought them closer to God.
All children and young people are responsible of caring for our planet's vegetation. In our schools, we enjoy taking care of plants and watching seeds grow. We also participate in reforestation campaigns.
Only through preserving our planet will we be able to find harmony between creation and nature. We must defend natural resources because our lives depend upon them.
Education For All
- We must be prepared through academic programmes and research in our quest for knowledge.
- Children have the right to be educated according to the needs of their own country.
- Knowing their culture, history and ideology will let them live with justice, fairness, and respect, thus enabling them to be part of our globalized world.
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