I once taught in a school that was forced, for political reasons, to close and I have never forgotten what a painful experience it was for staff and pupils alike. Although that was a large, British comprehensive school, a far cry from a tiny school on a very small Italian island, it gave me some idea how the one teacher and, at that time, three pupils at Italy's smallest school must have felt when it was threatened with closure in June.
Therefore I was happy to read that the school, on Alicudi in the Aeolian Islands, has been saved, despite the fact that this year it has only two pupils, in their first and third years of primary school respectively. As you might imagine, there is still only one teacher but perhaps what the pupils lack in the presence of peers is made up for by the idyllic setting in which lessons take place in good weather conditions - on a terrace with a spectacular view.
The school owes its survival largely to the efforts and determination of Mirella Fanti, the headteacher of the Istituto Scolastico Lipari 1, which coordinates schools in the area. Signora Fanti said the school had been saved because other institutions on the islands had supported it and the families involved had decided not to move from Alicudi, which now has only about 100 inhabitants. Without the school, says signora Fanti, Alicudi would be even more isolated than it already is, as the school involves itself in community activities when there are no lessons.
The story of the school has inspired the documentary film L'Ultimo Giorno / The Last Day [Zalab /Museo del Cinema di Stromboli]. Director Alberto Bougleux says that the film is dedicated not only to Alicudi but to all teachers who fight for the right of their pupils to have a modern, creative and democratic school.
Three cheers for Alicudi!