I have been lucky enough, in the last couple of weeks, to meet individuals who work in community development and education. On top of that, they are all patient enough to undergo the tough test of Sahar’s 1,001 questions, and kind enough to allow me to use their inspiration as a source for a couple of blog posts.
One reflection that was shared is that providing education to children, in all the senses of the word, by teachers, parents and members of the community alike, is not only a way to protect the weakest members of our society, but is also an expression of the principle of justice. We are helping children acquire the ability to speak for themselves, while at the same time speaking up for them in the meanwhile. How great therefore is the distinction of those who protect the children, however small the gesture, since justice is the best-beloved of all things in God’s sight.
The really interesting part is that you don’t need to be either a teacher or a parent to be involved in the process of educating children. After all, the connections that bind us together make us all involved, to a certain extent or another, with children. And as such, our attitude towards them should reflect the fact that they are one of the most precious members of our community. This encourages every person to reflect on the question: are we actually nurturing children in our day to day lives, with the children we encounter every day, however brief that encounter may be?
One of the distinctions of the Bahá’í Faith is the emphasis it puts on the education of children, so much so that two of the four activities currently at the heart of Bahá’í community development are aimed at children aged 15 and younger.
This comes in sharp contrast to what is going on in the world, where the treatment of children is going from bad to worse. Even in the relative safety of Canada, the USA and Europe, there are countless children who are suffering as a consequence of their parents’ involvement with the materialistic aspects of society. This treatment of the majority of the children in the world is yet another sign of the degradation of the old norms in society.
This reality lends more urgency to the question of the education of children. So if someone you know tends to say that children are not their cup of tea, maybe you should gently remind them that everyone was once a child; everyone has at least that in common with them.
Another interesting reflection that was shared with me is that education doesn’t belong to anyone; it belongs to the community. Schools and other spaces for education, however humble they are, are usually a collective effort to educate children, and are also a powerful expression of everyone’s inherent desire to serve. Who better to serve than those in our society who are the weakest?
If we push the thought further, it could be said that what is needed are not leaders to push education forward, but rather ‘mothers’ of sort, who watch their children try to walk, encouraging them, and when they fall, they soothe them, pick them up, set them on their feet with advice, and let them at it again.