As exams approached, the students of El Cocal Primary School became agitated and nervous. They were much less excited for workshops and every time they came into our classroom they complained about how much they needed to study in order to pass their exams.
In response, the GVI volunteers and staff worked with the teachers to develop a new schedule for exam season. Now, each grade level (1st to 3rd, and 4th-6th), have two afternoons assigned to them for individual, quiet, supported study to give them the best chance for passing their exams. After an hour and a half of intense focus, the students are rewarded with a healthy snack and thirty minutes of listening to music of their choosing. Then, they have an hour and a half of sports and/or arts activity to reward them for their hard work. The students love the new schedule and the teachers say their focus is improving. This change indicates a possible future for work in El Cocal focused on completing homework and preparing for exams.
Thank you for your support.
GVI Manual Antonio
Whilst continuing with our support of the primary schools in the Quepos region, the GVI team decided to introduce a once a week lesson on Wednesday evenings for adults in the community to learn som English.
One of our current interns spent a lot of time developing a highly successful six week adult course completely from scratch. Topics covered included introductions, numbers, simple verbs, family, places and daily routines. The sessions were led by the intern and supported by the volunteers who did one-on-ones with the students.
Although the course was aimed at beginners, we had a wide range of people attending, from students who study English at college, to adults who had never before had a chance to learn any English at all. It was heart-warming to see their determination as they returned week after week and slowly improved and progressed. The fact that they were coming because they wanted to, shows how important learning English is to the community.
Everyone involved felt that these sessions were the biggest achievement in the programme over the last month and a half, leading to the planning of an expansion to two sessions a week. One of these evenings will be a repeat of the beginners’ course, while the other will be an intermediate course, which is also currently being developed from scratch by our dedicated intern.
This has only be possible with your support. Thank you for continuing to believe in our program.
All the best
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.
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
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GVI Charitable Trust Manager