Jürg Jegge*

Helping socially marginalized young people

«Stupidity is learnable – Experiences with school dropouts». In 1976 his provocatively titled book made Jürg Jegge – then teaching at a special school – famous overnight throughout Switzerland.

And for such a highly committed pedagogue, this passionate plea was not enough. Nine years later he and Lorenz Bosshard initiated the «Märtplatz» foundation in Rorbas near Zurich. His idea – typical of Jürg Jegge – was to offer psychologically and socially handicapped people appropriate vocational training with professional support, thus enabling them to reintegrate into working life. «Appropriate» means here that in Rorbas, there is no pressure of time or competition. Jegge has complemented teaching activities with a wide-ranging curriculum to engender the interest of young people in social and cultural life.

«Märtplatz» has always been highly popular right from the outset. Over the last 25 years, more than 150 young people with take-off problems have taken this unique opportunity, and most of them are now fully reintegrated. This makes Jürg Jegge’s «Märtplatz» one of Switzerland’s most successful vocational integration institutions.

What about his book – is it still topical after more than thirty years? The author is sorry to say: very much so. Because today so many children still hate going to school and fail by far to benefit in full. And he fights tirelessly against pressurizing and forcing young people into the rigid mould of our working world. His «Märtplatz» in Rorbas is solid proof of his exceptional commitment to this cause.

* In April 2017, the achievements of Jürg Jegge – for which he was awarded the Doron Prize – were overshadowed when serious misconduct on the part of the prize winner came to light. The Foundation Board utterly condemns this misconduct, but will not strip Mr Jegge of the prize as he has not been convicted under criminal law at present.