Monday, April 21, 2008

By Nicole Duciaume, Documentation and Sponsorship Support Officer

Walking away from our days in Cotopaxi, and truthfully the entire time in Ecuador, participants excitedly chatted about the programs they had seen and the people they had met. Each delighted in sharing photos with each other, figuring out how to stay in touch and planning their presentations for their offices once they got back. A recommitment to the children, families, communities and programs was reborn from Australia to Canada and everywhere in between.

An interesting way to wrap up the week was informally asking the participants individually what programs they thought were the most memorable or interesting. The answers varied widely. In this post, I want to share with you what many felt to be a clear strength of the CCF Ecuador programs: the integrated education programs.

CCF Ecuador addresses education in four stages. As I mentioned in an earlier post, CCF Ecuador’s programs balance the children’s rights with their responsibilities. Therefore, in all of the stages I am about to outline below, it is important to reflect on the importance of the organization, community and local government to provide educational opportunities but it is also the responsibility of the parents and the children themselves to actively participate, eagerly learn and keep up with homework and educational tasks.

The first stage is the training of Guide Mothers who meet with parents of young children to encourage early stimulation, promote discovery and support early childhood skills development (like fine motor skills). These Guide Mothers teach parents how to make child-friendly games that we would often take for granted such as an empty coffee can and beans to make a large rattle. The responsibility of these guide mother volunteers is to talk with all the parents to stress the importance of early education to prepare children for the following stages.

The second stage is the kindergarten areas that develop social skills, independence and basic songs, dances and concepts such as getting dressed. These kindergartens provide a safe place for children to learn and grow…and there are tasty meals served everyday as well. Parents are responsible for ensuring that the children attend these schools daily to provide a firm foundation for future learning.

The third stage is elementary school that features a classroom that encourages child expression through dance, art, reading, writing (both in terms of penmanship and spelling, but also in terms of creative thought) and letter writing. It is at this stage that children are taught about their right to education and play, but that it comes at the price of doing homework, paying attention in class and helping with chores at home before being able to play with friends.

The fourth and final stage is high school where they boast a science room with all levels of creatures in jars of formaldehyde. The school also has a computer lab to learn basic computing skills such as Excel spreadsheets, Word documents and even PowerPoint. This high school was once located in another part of town where CCF helped construct the buildings, and as a result is actually called CCF High School. Students here learn that the responsibility to a better education rests, in part, with them asking for better classrooms, more teachers and diversified classes that will give them the skills needed to continue their education and form their futures.

This integrated education program, balancing rights and responsibilities, addresses the development of the children and youth from all stages of life.

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