Brest is a maritime city in the west of France. It is famous for its annual
sailing festival. Held in the summer months, this festival's highlight is
the display along the coast of beautifully preserved sailing ships.
the past fifteen years the city of Brest in France has been attracting
attention of another kind. Governmental and non-governmental bodies are
praising the city for its contribution to children's education. This
contribution is in the form of an organization that is made up of senior
citizens who work as volunteer teachers in primary schools in the city. This
organization was formed in 1985. Since then, other cities and towns all over
France have followed the example set in Brest.
Men and women between the ages of fifty-five and eighty years serve in
this organization. Madame Faust is one of them. For the past seven years she
has been a volunteer teacher in the Carbonne Primary school. They find her
very kind, patient and loving. She helps the slower children along so they
are not afraid of making mistakes. Many of the children confide in her.
Sometimes they tell her things they do not tell their teachers and parents.
To Madame Faust, being volunteer teacher is very rewarding.
Although volunteers need not have been qualified teachers or had teaching
experience before, they are carefully selected. After enrolment, they have
to undergo a one year probationary period. During this trial period they
have to prove their effectiveness as teachers to the primary school children
entrusted to their care. Among the volunteers' responsibilities are
providing help with schoolwork to children with special needs and tutoring
after school hours.
Children who have trouble keeping up with schoolwork have improved
tremendously since attending the classes given by these volunteer teachers.
The volunteers are dedicated to their work. They are able to establish a
close relationship with the children because they patiently and lovingly
assist them in reading, writing and arithmetic. Indeed the children feel
like the senior citizen volunteers are family members or part of an extended
family. This is a valuable arrangement in today's impersonal and
Some volunteers teach after school hours. This scheme greatly benefits
children who have single parents or parents who are both working. The
children are supervised at work and play. They are allotted time to play in
order not to overtax their minds. This extended `day care' has been highly
recommended by schools and parents. The senior citizen volunteers are not
only teachers but surrogate grandparents. Both teachers and parents are
happy to have their children in the excellent care of the senior volunteer
Madam Faust is not the only senior citizen volunteer teacher who has a
special relationship with the children. Most of the other volunteer teachers
are equally effective and are well-loved. They have won the appreciation of
their society. For the volunteers, it is a wonderful way to continue being
useful to society.
Bigger and busier urban areas in France have set up their own senior
citizen volunteer teachers' organizations. Most schools that are making use
of such programs have reported immense improvements in the education and
well-being of their students.
The program that started in Brest has not only spread to other parts of
France but also the other parts of the world. There are many senior citizens
out there who are willing and able to contribute to society.