According to the Salvadoran Constitution, basic K-12 education is compulsory when provided by the government, but since COVID-19 hit, many rural and urban students are struggling to find the resources and motivation to stay in school.
A recent publication of GatoEncerrado pointed out two possible reasons for this: “partial or no access to digital media by a large number of students and deep social inequality.”
El Salvador’s management of technology and the digital transmission of knowledge is just now starting to mature. In 2017, the last recorded Multiple Purpose Household Survey (EHPM) found that 303,815 Salvadoran families were online, that is to say a mere 16.59% of households had an Internet connection.
The Ministry of Education (MINED) has presented some interesting initiatives since the beginning of the pandemic but according to some educators, a more drastic approach is necessary. Many feel that MINED needs to redress their strategies around academic resource distribution and teacher/student communication. A number of educators fear that failing to improve such systems may result in a plethora of schools across the country experiencing massive retention and desertion rates as well as all the socio-economic problems that come along with them.
Instead of waiting around to see what MINED does next, VOICES chooses to support the initiatives of our academic communities who wish to act now in order to save the academic futures of an untold amount of students.
Centro Escolar Amando López and Instituto Nacional Nueva Esperanza Bajo Lempa
Like every other public school in El Salvador, Centro Escolar Amando López received the same instructions from the Ministry of Education: print out the educational guides we give you, distribute them and teach your students via Google Classroom.
C. E. Amando López serves nine communities including its own, and many of the students that attend the school come from extremely impoverished families and/or hard to reach places. Alarmed at the growing rates of class inactivity, faculty decided to develop a mobile computer lab program that they themselves will lead and assess, both on-campus and off.
In addition to monitoring the program, the C. E. Amando López team will also be responsible for orientating families and students, providing materials and training and ensuring stringent adherence to sanitary measures everywhere that the program is operating.
The National Institute of Nueva Esperanza Bajo Lempa (INNEBL) will help construct the protective workstation shielding, provide technical program support and offer computer literacy training to 9th grade students. C.E. Amando López will designate two workstations for the use of 20 INNEBL high-school students.
Unidad de Salud, La Canoa
We are very fortunate to have the approval and backing of the local public health system who will help us guarantee the overall well-being of all those taking part in this program.
Local health workers have graciously offered to teach mini-workshops during the orientations about Coronavirus and how to properly wear a mask and wash your hands, as well as other key steps to prevent oneself from getting sick. Throughout the program, nurses and community promoters from the La Canoa Health Clinic will perform sanitation checks and provide us with any guidance we require.
Voices on the Border
We will coordinate the execution of the project with the different actors involved. We will also find funding, manage the financials and make sure that the required materials and supplies are purchased. As always, we will also document and share the project process, results and achievements via our various social media accounts and blog.
What about the Coronavirus?
Considering that we are in the midst of a global pandemic, we have instituted a special security and safety protocol that all participants, including facilitators, logistical support and VOICES’ staff and volunteers must follow.
Ways to Get Involved?
Follow us on social media and our blog to receive updates about the project and don’t forget to share what you learn with your friends and families.
This project is currently seeking funding
To provide 6th to 12th grade students with a comprehensive digital learning resource in the form of a mobile computer lab, in an attempt to prevent them from falling behind or eventually away, solely because they lack the technological resources required to achieve academic success.
Voices on the Border; Centro Escolar Amando López Lempa Mar; Asociación de Desarrollo Comunal Amando López Quintanilla; Instituto Nacional Nueva Esperanza del Bajo Lempa; Unidad de Salud de La Canoa.
Centro Escolar Amando López is designated as the headquarters where all program development occurs, materials including sanitary products are stored and trainings take place. In total, the program runs 3 sites, 1 school site and 2 home sites. Each site has someone designated as a full-time supervisor and fully-equipped computer stations essential hardware, hand sanitizer and a disinfectant spray.
Community Amando Lopez School Center
#15 computer stations
Students from outside Amando Lopez (excluding Octavio Ortiz and 14 de Abril) were bussed in, via the same school transportation system that VOICES has been funding for the past five years. The school-site also provides sanitary cabins in order for students to practice social distancing.
Octavio Ortiz (casa particular)
#2 computer stations
14 de Abril (casa particular)
#2 computer stations
Under this project, 20 computer stations, exclusively designated for educational use, are available every week from Tuesday through Friday for use by students enrolled in Centro Escolar Amando López and the local high school, the National Institute of Nueva Esperanza (INNEBL).
After the students and their guardians received highly detailed orientations explaining the program components, sanitary measures and evaluation process, they then are both asked to sign a computer lab contract prior to initiating their participation.
After contracts are signed, students go through an onsite mandatory, week-long, self-guided multimedia orientation to assess their knowledge and build skills in basic computation and platforms such as Google Classroom and Gmail.
From that moment on, at the same time every day, each student will have access to the same computer for 80-minute sessions. Via Google Classroom and Gmail, students will be able to communicate with their teachers, complete their assignments as well as socialize, collaborate and interact with their classmates. They can explore new ways to learn, research a wide range of topics and create academic content of their own.
After an initial month-long developmental phase for the teaching staff, a rotating schedule was created that includes them going to and from the sites to provide supervision and in-person pedagogical support for the students.
The schedule also mandates 10-minute increments between each session in order for the computer to cool down and the adult monitor to disinfect the station and surrounding area before the next student arrives.
The computers themselves have been configured with antivirus software and setup so that students cannot access websites that are considered unsavory and/or non-educational.
- To provide students access to digital resources that facilitate their learning process.
- To allow for hands-on learning of fundamental concepts and systems, for both students and faculty alike.
- To motivate students to stay focused on their studies via direct access to their teachers and class material.
- To prevent high levels of academic stress, desertion, and retention.
Digital Learning and the Future
No one wished for COVID-19 and no one knows exactly how long our respective lockdowns will last, which means it’s important to begin transforming our societies into those that can adapt in time to survive.
We agree with the data that shows that an interdisciplinary teaching program might actually increase the capacity for students to learn. If digital learning is the future, then VOICES stands resolutely behind it’s commitment to motivate and accompany any well-planned initiatives presented by our local partners that strengthen the academic capacities of their communities.
Visit our other current project: Addressing the Food Crisis During COVID-19