Friday, 15 October 2010

How do you solve a problem like slums?

What do we do?  

Increase benefits, provide courses, send in health and social workers to protect children.... adapt the architecture, install security lights, increase local policing........ introduce drug programmes, send in the police to stop prostitution and drug dealing on the street.....  start parenting programmes........

Does it work?  How many children from the slums end up in good jobs, with self respect and a fine reputation?  I can think of one lawyer who made it, but not many others.

One man in another country came up with an idea that seems counter intuitive:  give a child a musical instrument and teach them classical music.   It sounds bonkers.  This is the result:

José Antonio Abreu founded El Sistema and the Simon Bolivar youth orchestra of Venezuela is now world famous for the energy and commitment of its players, some of whom have moved on to major orchestras overseas.

The movement is spreading to the UK.  There's a project in Scotland and a recent success in Everton:

Politicians have increased the emphasis on distinguishing between beneficial activities, (such as science & engineering subjects for degree study), making an assumption that other activities have no value.

I'm not so sure.

When I say SOLVE, I don't mean that slums disappear. In the case of Venezuela, large numbers of young people and their families now have opportunities, meaning and purpose. There are still gangs, drug problems, criminality and prostitution, but el sistema has made an impact that is visible to the world.

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