“Omnes, omnia, omnino.”
(Teach everything in-depth to everyone.)
This quote of Johann Amos Comenius is the motto of KomenskýFond, established by ERSTE Foundation and Caritas to help alleviate poverty through education.
The human cost of poverty is all too real in many communities across Central and Eastern Europe. One of the most vulnerable groups is of course young people. A poverty of opportunities leads to an impoverished lifestyle, with all that this entails, including low self-esteem, a lack of social and emotional development, and even exposure to violence (according to the Study on Child Poverty of the EU). The knock-on effects for society as a whole – and, more widely, Europe – are corrosive. One way out of poverty is education. For some of the most socially disadvantaged children and families in the region, improving access to schooling and offering the right kind of support to children once they get there – from skills counselling to simply a hot meal – can make a world of difference. ERSTE Foundation and Caritas Austria jointly established the KomenskýFond to help alleviate poverty through education.
Through its ‘learning for life’ approach, the KomenskýFond helps remove barriers to personal, social and economic development. In Austria, the counselling and support services provided by Caritas now include an educational component: a fun school trip, unaffordable before, can be a reality for poorer families; more young people, aided by learning support, can escape the poverty trap by gaining much-needed qualifications. KomenskýFond projects in Central and Eastern Europe enhance the prospects of people on the fringes of society. How? By offering such measures as skills training, school books, bus passes, help with homework, career advice – all practical ways of bridging the opportunity gap, so vitally needed at a time of growing youth unemployment around the globe.
This highly practical initiative is named after the 17th-century Czech educator and thinker, Jan Amos Komenský, whose philosophy was ‘to teach everything in-depth to everyone’. Roma children and families have been assisted in the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary. Projects there have seen dropout rates fall and integration increase. Other work with disadvantaged youngsters has taken place in Austria, Croatia, Moldova, Serbia and Ukraine. In the economically struggling regions of Croatia – Karlovac County, Osijek-Baranja County and Šibenik-Knin County – 268 of the unemployed were provided training to equip them with the skills to set up their own businesses. There are also international KomenskýFond get-togethers. At a week-long, fun-filled intercultural youth meeting in Serbia, teenagers formed a ‘children’s parliament’ to discuss their rights and the discrimination they face.