Socially speaking, El Salvador was already deteriorating before COVID-19 hit, owing to rising rates of poverty and extreme poverty, the persistence of inequalities and growing social discontent. In this context, the pandemic was to inevitably have a profoundly negative impact on various social sectors, particularly public health and education.
Even before the pandemic, VOICES has been working with rural schools and families in an attempt to radically improve the culture of learning throughout these regions, by identifying and addressing major gaps in educational outcomes. Since the pandemic began, we’ve been supporting initiatives that deploy distance learning modalities through a variety of formats and platforms (both on and off-line), while also supporting the mobilization of education personnel and students and helping these institutions stay equipped with the necessary biomedical resources to ensure the overall well-being of students and their families.
Building a Dignified Learning Environment
Isla de Monte Cristo, Bahia del Jiquilisco
In 1992, the Island of Monte Cristo was resettled by local farmers taking advantage of the postwar land transfer program. Today, the remote community contains acres of fruit trees, a handful of farming families, and hundreds of nesting birds.
Due to years of abandonment by both local and the national government, organizations like VOICES have been approached by local leaders to help them tackle specific issues like their lack of vital resources such as potable water and access to education.
Thanks in part to the generosity of South Bay Sanctuary Covenant, and the efforts of the islanders themselves in managing the logistics, the transportation of materials and the labor, their small school is in the middle of a complete makeover.
Rural Mobile Technology Lab
Centro Escolar Amando Lopez, Bajo Lempa, Usulután
The Mobile Tech Lab began in 2020, in response to the official closure of all Salvadoran educational institutions. Luckily for the kids, the Amando Lopez School staff have always been at the forefront of developing creative initiatives to entice students and keep communities learning.
The Lab is helping bridge the digital divide in the Bajo Lempa, by offering direct technology to students and computer skills to teachers. 112 students are currently taking part in the Lab, by attending in-person or virtual classes in communities Amando Lopez, La Canoa and 14th de Abril. The teaching staff continue to say that their goals are being accomplished through this program, goals such as keeping students and teachers connected, providing students the critical technological tools they need to succeed and strengthening the technical capabilities of the teachers.
It is also important to note that because of the school’s stringent biohealth approach, Amando Lopez has become a model for other institutions who wish to teach kids, during a global pandemic.
Early Childhood Education Improvement
Bajo Lempa Preschools, Usulután
Preschool teachers are critical agents of children’s social and emotional development, which in turn is a key predictor of their current and future academic and social success. Rural pre-schoools in El Salvador however are notorious for being left of the equation when it comes to government funding around paying dignified salaries, operational budgets, building infrastructures, etc.
For VOICES, it is important to support these institutions in their educational proceses by helping to supplement these shortcomings and offering them quality continuing education workshops with pedagogical professionals.
Recently, we worked with five different preschools in the Bajo Lempa to facilitate a series of highly interactive age and developmentally appropriate activities aimed at improving the methodological foundations of their curriculum and internal organizations.
We want to reiterate our gratitude for our dear friends from South Bay Sanctuary Covenant of Northern California, St.John of God Church of San Francisco, the Carlos Rosario International school family in Washington D.C. and generous individuals and families who continue to understand the need for providing quality education in the middle of a pandemic. If it weren’t for each and everyone of you and the dedication and perseverance of our Salvadoran patterns, who knows how many bright young futures would be stifled and lost.
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