In early 2014, GVI interns and staff initiated a community needs assessment where a small amount of Cocal residence were interviewed about life in Cocal, as well as educational, financial and medical concerns. As part of this, the profiling of the area also included a needs assessment whereby residents discussed what they believed the community needed. Whilst a far cry from the main issues facing the community, one of the aspects volunteers where able to assist with was the request for adult education. In April 2014, various volunteers got together to plan a six week adult english program that is now currently running on Wednesday evenings at the local school. The initiative is proving a success with more and more adults signing up throughout the course.
So far the program has covered basic greetings and leave takings, basic conversation, days of the week, numbers and the verbs ‘to be’ and ‘to have’. This week marks the 4th week of the program and we plan to spend the next 2 weeks looking at basic work conversation that may assist them in gaining employment in the tourist mecca of Quepos. What is also important however, is that in teaching adults at Cocal, we hope that they may then be able to go home and practice English with their children.
The program runs every Wednesday evening for an hour and a half and offers a free creche service for parents with young children. Previous attempts to run Adult English classes at Cocal have often failed due to peoples inability to commit with work and childcare restraints. The evening classes, along with the free childcare service in the GVI Aula has proved to be a great incentive for parents who would otherwise be unable to attend, and we often have just as many kids come for the creche as we do the English class. The response from the program by both the community and volunteers has been extremely positive and we are hoping that we will be able to continue with follow up six week programs after this, perhaps even offering various level options for the students who may wish to continue.
Thank you for continuing to support this project.
All the best
One of our major achievements last year thanks to donations was the refurbishment of our new room, turning it from a storage area to a fully functional classroom/library. One of our major drives since the start of the school year has been to utilise this new space as effectively as possible and this has been done with great results.
Last year we were able to begin a reading program with some of the younger students that was showing good progress and thanks to the new space we have been able to continue this program and make improvements to it. Many of the students we worked with last year still need help and often on an individual basis. Thanks to our dedicated GVI volunteers we have been able to give the local teachers assistance in gauging the levels of the students and then improving those levels, both in English, Maths and Spanish. Literacy levels in Costa Rica are among the highest in the developing world with approximately 96% literacy in people over 15 years old but this is not always the case in isolated communities like El Cocal. Many of the students do not read and write as well as they should be able to and it holds them back with everything they do at school. In addition to this their parents may also not be literate, which severely reduces the amount of help they can expect out of school. Having GVI volunteers on hand to help with this can be invaluable.
So far we have been working mainly with grades 2 and 5 but as the year progresses we are getting more requests for help from other teachers and we are, as always, delighted to be able to help our partners to achieve their own goals. One teacher came to us last week to particularly thank the volunteers for their work with one of her grade 1 students. She hadn’t expected to see results so quickly and such a marked improvement. The students are also very excited about their extra classes and the chance to improve as well as the chance to spend time with the volunteers who are always popular in the school and the volunteers love the opportunity to get to know individual students and see real improvement from them over quite a short time.
We look forward to seeing continued progress from the students and hopefully the opportunity to work with more of the students over the course of the year.
GVI Manuel Antonio
We hope 2014 has started well for you. The beginning of the year seems the perfect time to reflect on our project goals and particularly on our contribution to primary education in El Cocal. Over the last 12 months we have taught approximately 50,000 student hours in El Cocal primary school, this not including a substantial contribution to the education of the students in the community outside of the school rooms. GVI Manuel Antonio has a variety of goals but encouraging students to stay in school and improving the rate of students graduating to the next grade is definitely one of the most important things we do.
In Costa Rica approximately “three out of every 10 children drop out of school before completing basic general education and eight of them do not complete secondary studies within the allotted time frame”. This statistic takes the country as a whole and without a doubt that figure is much less encouraging in communities like El Cocal, where many students leaving primary school will not go on to secondary school, either because they are called on to work or otherwise contribute to the running of the family. Students graduate late as well due to a number of difficulties they face that can make learning difficult or simply mean that they cannot attend school for the whole year and therefore cannot pass.
This year we were delighted to see 100% of the grade 6 students graduate. How many of these students will go to secondary school now or at a later date remains to be seen but we can be very hopeful that this number will be improved thanks to the efforts of our volunteers, supporters, donors and the local teachers.
Perhaps the most impressive and satisfying part of the day was watching the happiness and pride of one student and his father as he became the first of his family to ever finish primary school. This is a student that we have worked with quite a lot over the last year. He has learning difficulties and often can’t work at the same pace as the rest of the class so needs individual attention.
We look forward to continuing our good work in the school next year and continuing to contribute to the education and development of the children of El Cocal.
Many thanks for your support for these children.
Costa Rica Community Programs Manager
Feliz Navidad y un muy Prospero Ano Nuevo!
Thank you for all your support in 2013, we've had a fantastic year thanks to your support. Through the funds raised through GlobalGiving, we were able to successfully start a major construction initiative with our partners at the El Cocal school!
This month we have seen a particular improvement in our English Teaching program at El Cocal Primary School. The students and teachers have been much more engaged in our classes and we have seen more children coming to the community centre to learn outside of their classes as well.
One of GVI’s main goals worldwide is to help improve and encourage education in places where it is less accessible or less encouraged. One of the eight UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) deals directly with this issue, which is also linked to another MDG, that covering poverty. Many people in the world lack access to good education and it is this that holds them back when it comes to finding a better job later in life. In general, education in Costa Rica is good and well-funded, but this funding tends to be concentrated in certain geographical areas. El Cocal, the community in which GVI volunteers work, receives little funding and is quite resource-poor; this leads to difficulties for teachers and students alike. Partly due to this, but also because of other problems, students will often not go on to high school after leaving primary school. Many may be too busy helping at home or working elsewhere, some may just not be academically strong enough, and others might choose to continue their education later when they have more time, perhaps in evening classes. Given this knowledge, it is particularly important for the students to improve their access to better jobs whenever possible, and speaking English is one of the best ways they can improve their job prospects. Tourism is one of Quepos’ biggest industries and Costa Rica as a whole attracted 2 million foreign visitors in 2008. Many of these visitors come from English speaking countries, so being able to communicate with them is key, and opens a wealth of opportunities.
Our English Teaching volunteers have been working especially hard to integrate a new curriculum into the current classes. We have worked closely with the local teachers to find a system that works well for them and makes the best use of the volunteers and have also looked to make planning a little simpler for the volunteers. This makes it much easier for volunteers to focus on improving the knowledge of the students and increasing their vocabulary and confidence with the English language. Having this new system in place should make it easier for the local teachers to be involved with the classes and with planning as the whole progression from absolute basics upwards is mapped out and simplified.
We have also started to teach specific conversation classes with grade 6 students and this has shown a lot of growth. The students enjoy these types of classes a lot and really engage with them. The local teachers have also been very happy with the improvement and the interest of the students gives extra encouragement to the teachers.
One highlight of the last month was watching students playing a game during break time that they learned during an English class. The local teacher showed them this game as a way of teaching colours and shapes in English and they enjoyed it so much that they continued playing, in a mix of Spanish and English, for the next few days.
As ever we are incredibly grateful for your support.These achievements would not be possible without your involvement.
Our achievement this month follows from the construction we did back in August. The work done in the classroom was always intended as a work in progress and this month we have moved so much closer to our goal of having a fully refurbished classroom, ready to use and bursting with resources. We have some beautiful paintwork on the walls and plans to complete all the painting and a new bookshelf within the next week. From there we have plans in place to tile the floor including floor mosaics as well as having a reading area complete with storytelling chair, an art gallery area and a learning area.
These plans may not be quite completed yet but we are already using the classroom to great effect. We have held English classes in there for a while but our most recent successes have been working individually with certain students to help them push forward, working with the whole of grade 1 in reading workshops and the whole of grade 4 in maths workshops.
One of our goals for next month is to run a fund raising event to raise money for the completion of the room and extra resources for the students to use. We would like to make this classroom not only a space to learn maths, reading and English, but also a place to practice arts, music, dancing and hopefully also a place from which we can encourage more diverse sports within the school. One of the students recently won gold in the Under 18s World Body Boarding Championship. This is a community with extremely talented individuals and this classroom should help give them all an opportunity to discover and realise their potential.
Thank you for your support and we look forward to sharing how the Fundraising Challenge goes!
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GVI Charitable Trust Manager