Familiarisation with different ways and measures of adult education in Italy, sharing the best practices while interacting among the participants and with the lecturers in a small community in different social and cultural settings, and improvement of foreign language skills – such were the objectives of international trainings in Italy, attended by the Director of Raseiniai District Education Assistance Authority Reda Kunickienė, Deputy Director Silva Morkevičienė, supervisor Valdonė Balčaitienė and I – psychologist Vaida Jakaitienė, together with a group of specialists from institutions of Lower Lithuanian region engaged in non-formal adult education. The trainings were planned as a result of „Erasmus+“ project under the exchange programme “Improving the Consortium member’s capacities on non-formal education organisation, based on the experience of Italy”.
While in Sicily, we visited the Third Age University in Milazzo (Libera Universita per la Terza Eta LUTE, Milazzo). The University training programme has two goals: expanding the cultural cognition of the students and promoting self-education as well as reducing the loneliness of people by promoting reciprocal solidarity and thus improving the quality of life. The University has almost 1,000 students aged from 18 to 96, and approximately 100 lecturers. Excitingly, a number of students are lecturers themselves, and they all work following the principle of volunteering. University students may choose their training programmes from 100 study subjects including rather unusual ones for us, such as Marine Biology, General Anatomy, Greek Myths on Stage, Humanism and Constitution etc. However, the most popular training programmes are very similar to ours: Informatics, Dancing, English, Nutrition, and Regional History.
In the course of our stay, we also visited the Multi-Functional Social Centre (Comunita Alloggio), which takes care of people with different disabilities (autists, people with Down syndrome or serious mental illnesses). The majority of the centre’s attendees are people aged 25–45. The disabled are first taught various skills (hygiene, taking care of themselves, social skills). Moreover, they have the opportunity to learn a “trade” in one of the three fields: librarianship (they learn to search for information online, order books for the people of the town from other libraries); kitchen (cooking and table setting), and agricultural works (they grow vegetables and fruit). Skills acquired by the disabled at the Centre give them independence; they learn to help around the household and are able to take care of themselves as well as others (e.g. ill or ageing parents). This association operates on a voluntary basis; it has only two full-time employees, all the others are volunteers.
We also visited associations (communities) established in different regions of the country, which are involved in very diverse activities: teaching and encouraging the people to engage in sports, dancing, music and acting, to get interested in local history etc. We were especially impressed by the community sports festival in Capo d‘Orlando. Interestingly, Simas Jasaitis played for one season for the basketball team of this city, and he was much loved and respected here. The city community received us warmly, demonstrated sports competitions and treated us to home-made cakes. Later on, we visited the Mayor’s Office and met with the Mayor. The visit of the Lithuanians in the city and the sports festival was broadcasted on the local television, and an article was published in the Italian press.
The objectives of associations operating in Italy are very similar – furtherance of the national and regional culture, and “performance of a socially significant action” (i.e. promotion of people’s solidary, providing for them the opportunities to express themselves). All these associations have a common feature – they are not supported by the state and operate on a voluntary basis; people who join them get along nicely despite of different ages (from teenagers to seniors), they are very enthusiastic and energetic. It is these things in particular – volunteering, enthusiasm and ability to rally the people of different generations for a common activity and thus develop tolerance towards each other rather than increase the gap between the generations – we should learn from the Italians the most.
We expect to continue developing the connections made during the training with the Sicilians in Raseiniai region.
The project “Improving the Consortium member’s capacities on non-formal education organisation, based on the experience of Italy”, No 2018-1-LT01-KA104-046858, was financed under the Erasmus+ key action one – Adult education staff mobility (KA104). The project coordinator was Raseiniai District Education Assistance Authority; partners: Mažeikiai Education Centre, Telšiai Education Centre, Adult Education centre of Kelmė District Municipality, and Centre of Education and Sports Services of Radviliškis District Municipality.
The article was written by Vaida Jakaitienė – psychologist of Raseiniai District Education Assistance Authority who also reads lectures to students of Raseiniai TAU and district residents and consults on psychological subjects.