What difficulties did you encounter in keeping the Alicudi school open?
In 2014, there was a sudden demographic decline. In a short time, it went from 10 to 2 students. Both the municipality and the board considered it absurd to keep open for so few pupils, who would have had to go to school on other islands. So, I had to fight. Thanks to the collaboration of the parents and a small media battle, I was able to keep the plexus open. And it is a great pride, considering that Alicudi dies in winter. 60 inhabitants remain, there is not even a bar in service. The school is a training point, a cultural center. It is very important.
How do young people experience being so few?
They are used to it, they have known each other since they were born and they are always together. Obviously, however, socialization is lacking. In fact, in the summer they are delighted when, thanks to the activities we carry out, they meet new children to play with. Furthermore, we have always tried to overcome the isolation with remote connections with the other islands. We have been Dad since 2010. We were forerunners because, thanks to European and national funding, we bought interactive whiteboards and videoconferencing stations and in this way we connect all the islands to each other.
Speaking of Dad, how did you and are you experiencing the pandemic emergency?
When, in 2020, the ministry gave an indication to close the schools and move to Dad, we were ready. We had no difficulty: the teachers were prepared, already trained. It was also customary for the pupils to see other classmates or teachers at the computer. In fact, we used the Dad even on days of bad weather, when the teachers were unable to arrive and connected remotely. It was just an acquired system. As for the distance, on the smaller islands it is not a problem considering that the classrooms are large and the pupils are few. The only novelty was the mask, which we obviously wear.
On 13 September, in wishing the students his good wishes for their return to class, the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli quoted you …
Yes, it was a beautiful recognition, which made us proud. Wishing all European pupils good wishes, he quoted the Alicudi school, saying that it is important that education reaches everywhere, even in the most remote places. He then named the famous 356 steps, underlining that they are the symbol of the fatigue of life, but also of knowledge. A sort of ascent towards knowledge. A wonderful image.
Speaking of the steps, it is difficult to get to the smallest school in Europe, but then the effort is rewarded by the panorama …
Yes, it is spectacular. Perhaps that of Alicudi is also the most beautiful school in Europe … or in the world. As for fatigue, children are used to stairs from an early age, they have no difficulty, as they are used to the view, being able to admire it even from their homes.
Headmaster Fanti, you chose the Aeolian Islands after a career around the world, why?
I chose to do the competition in Sicily (it was regional), when I passed it and I saw Salina among the locations I had no doubts. My dream since I was a girl was to live on an island and, therefore, here I am. Happy and satisfied. It is a very complicated reality, but it gives a lot of satisfaction. When I arrived, among other things, for the teachers – most of whom come from the mainland – working on the islands was a sentence. Now, thanks also to the media, a positive image of living here has been created, the perception has changed. And, in fact, I now have a more stable faculty.
A wish for the future of the Alicudi school?
That it does not close and remains open even with only one pupil. Also, that some families with children move to keep company with my students. The island, among other things, is Covid-free …