In 2014, Fabretto's Primary Education Enrichment program has continued to bring quality education and nutrition to children in vulnerable communities. A key component of this program is improving teacher preparation. In Nicaragua, one quarter of public school teachers are not formally trained. In rural and historically underserved communities, where children are often struggling or behind, this percentage is even higher.
Fabretto responds to this need with comprehensive teacher training that develops effective educators who create a positive classroom environment. Most teachers in Nicaragua rely on traditional blackboard lessons where the teacher talks and students copy into their notebooks. In contrast, Fabretto training sessions helps teachers use updated teaching methods and facilitate activities that encourage student participation. Teacher training can have an enormous impact on student performance and attendance; we have seen that good teachers keep children in school and help them truly learn, which is especially crucial in the communities where we work.
This year, Fabretto has selected primary school teachers who show leadership potential to attend training sessions that cover teaching reading and mathematics, fostering creative and critical thinking skills, and promoting positive values (respect, responsibility, etc.). To multiply the impact, Fabretto has designed training sessions to prepare participants to replicate the training sessions at their schools for their fellow teachers as “teacher-trainers” (see infographic). Fabretto staff also follows up with regular classroom visits to support teachers as they implement the new methodology.
Teachers and students alike are benefiting from excellent teacher preparation. Sindy, a first grade teacher in Somoto, has worked with Fabretto's primary enrichment program for four years. The day we visited her classroom, her students were working independently on an interactive literacy lesson, creating words by matching slips of paper with syllables. Jean Luis, age six, told us proudly that he was able to write "hard words" now. For Sindy, Fabretto's training helped her design creative lessons to teach the basics of reading, the most fundamental academic skill. She explained, "The children are motivated... I've visited their homes to motivate their parents too." With improved teaching techniques, Sindy and her fellow Fabretto teachers are awakening children's interest in learning and building a strong foundation for their futures.
For children living in poverty in Nicaragua, joining Fabretto’s primary education program can literally change their lives. One inspirational story of the transformative power of Fabretto programs is the story of Fatima, a young girl from in the tiny community Imires in rural northern Nicaragua. With Fabretto, Fatima found the resources and support that she needed to overcome a life-threatening illness and continue her education.
In 2009, Mike, a volunteer at Fabretto’s education center in nearby San José de Cusmapa, noticed that Fatima, then seven years old, was suffering from health problems. At the time, her body was malnourished and swollen due to a kidney disease. After speaking with her family, Fabretto’s staff found out that Fatima’s mother had passed away several years earlier from a similar disease. Her father and stepmother were very concerned about her health but lacked the resources to take her to the hospital.
Fabretto helped transfer Fatima to a children’s hospital in Managua, over six hours away by car, where she received treatment for her kidneys. With just three injections, her swelling slowly reduced. After her treatment, Fatima was able to walk again and return to class as a second grader in 2010. With help from Fabretto teachers and afterschool enrichment classes, she caught up with her school work and passed the grade level.
Today, at twelve years old, Fatima is a healthy sixth grader. Each morning, she goes to Fabretto’s education center for enrichment classes, which reinforce basic academic skills in addition to teaching new skills such as English, music, and art. In the afternoon, she receives a daily meal through the nutrition program and attends the local primary school, where teachers are trained by Fabretto to provide excellent primary education. Fatima’s younger sister attends the same school, and both girls are looking forward to a new addition to the family—a little brother or sister—very soon.
Fatima’s father, Felipe, is her biggest supporter. “My father motivates me to study hard,” she said. “I want to continue my studies in the future.” With support from Fabretto’s primary education program, Fatima is well on her way to achieving her dreams.
Coming straight from her classroom, Maura strode into the meeting room with confidence, a pencil tucked into her hair. “¿Comenzamos?” she said immediately. “Should we start?”
From that moment, she guided us through the story of her life, her strong, enthusiastic voice revealing her natural talent for teaching. With no reservations, she told us of struggles and heartache, but all that was overshadowed by her unflappable determination to move forward and provide a better future for her children. Maura knew from a young age where she wanted to go, and, with support from Fabretto, she is on her way there. As a parent, student, apprentice, and teacher, Maura has taken full advantage of the opportunities provided by Fabretto and has become a leader in her community. Her positive attitude and commitment to achieving her dreams is a true testimony to the spirit of Fabretto.
Maura’s life has not been easy, but she never stopped believing in a better future. Tears came to her eyes as she spoke of her difficult childhood in rural Nicaragua and moving alone to Managua to support her family as a young adult. Three years ago, Maura began attending Fabretto’s parent training sessions and enrolled her children in Fabretto’s educational programs. Later, she joined the vocational training program “to learn to make jewelry to make progress on her own.” But Maura didn’t stop there. “Since I was 6 years old, I had always dreamed of being a teacher,” she recalled. Over the years, she worked as a nanny, factory worker, and even a salesperson on the streets, but she never gave up on her dream. “Teaching is a calling,” Maura stated with conviction. “Fabretto was my path to enter.”
Now, Maura is entering her final year of her degree program to become a teacher. She recently completed a 3-month internship at a Fabretto’s Education Center, and when Fabretto’s director noticed her potential, she offered her a temporary substitute teaching position. “I had faith that I would find a job after my internship ended,” Maura explained. “I just wanted to learn… As a teacher, I am constantly learning.”
Maura became animated as she described her experience as a teacher at Fabretto’s Center. “The children are so sweet,” she said. “In just one week, there was tremendous love between us. The children’s love has also helped me grow.”
As we listened to Maura, we were not only impressed by her life experience, but also motivated for her future and the future of other Fabretto beneficiaries. “I want to show my children who their mother can be,” she said, her eyes bright with emotion. “With Fabretto, I have been growing, and my children too… and they are proud of me.”
In Nicaragua, receiving a quality primary education is so much more than just getting children to attend school. Fabretto creates a safe and fun environment for learning by encouraging and explaining to parents how they can support their child’s education, giving teachers like Maura the resources and education so they can make their passion for teaching more effective, and providing a daily lunch so they can grow and lead a healthy life. Together with your support, we can continue education programs so that the children like those that Maura teaches are not only be inspired by her, but have the opportunity to learn and develop the skills needed to reach their goals.
The month of July has arrived and Nicaragua´s primary school students are halfway through the 2013 school year. The last time Fabretto spoke to you we reviewed the 2012 highlights and accomplishments and gave you a little sneak peak of what to expect for the first half of the 2013 school year. Today we will go into some of the details of this 2013 school year.
One of the surprises and great news so far for this year is that Fabretto managed to not only meet its projected number of enrolled students, but also far exceeded it by over 300 students. Initial enrollment figures have been collected by education and Fabretto technical staff across all Fabretto-supported schools and the official enrollment for primary students is 9,328 for this school year. That adds up to over 500 students higher than in 2012, equivalent to an increase of just over 6%.
In an effort to help overcome the barriers to mathematical learning in basic arithmetic and geometry, Fabretto has provided teachers, students and indeed, entire classrooms with Math Baskets or “Canastas Matematicas”, distributing about 50 of these in several dozen schools. These math baskets are filled with up to 30 different items that allows teachers to diversify teaching techniques and facilitate learning for children while making the process fun. Legos, abacuses (or abaci), dice, bingos, dominos, cards, just to mention a few, are among the items found in these baskets. Manuals and guides for teachers and students alike are also part of the basket. Moreover, teachers who received these baskets also participated in related workshops in order to optimize and efficiently use the baskets and their items accordingly, and to increase the impact of this dynamic exercise.
As part of the ongoing efforts to increase reading proficiency in Nicaragua, Fabretto highly trained technical staff, and teachers applied a diagnostic test to students in first, second and third grade, across all Fabretto-supported schools, to gauge the level of reading and comprehension proficiency among its beneficiary population. In addition, 718 Nacho books with differing themes like Spanish, math, civics, etc., have been distributed to primary school students this year, alongside teaching and learning materials for teachers to be used in the Montessori methodology.
During the month of May, a Reading Fair was held in Cusmapa, Sabanas, Somoto, Ocotal and Esteli. During this event, boys and girls, teachers and even parents participated in the reading activities. The participating boys and girls were the most excited of all. They needed very little encouragement from their caretakers and some even consider the fair as the highlight of the school year thus far.
In the last 3 months, Fabretto´s activities in primary education have also focused on more organizational support as well as training workshops for teachers and faculty members as a way to strengthen the primary education program being offered in Fabretto-supported schools. To that end, the following training workshops have been implemented by Fabretto educational staff:
- Key educational personnel in several centers received training in Mathematics, Language & Literature and Student Government Organization.
- Training was held for teachers on ABC books for a pilot reading project in several centers in the north.
- Educational personnel in Somoto, Esteli, Matagalpa, and Managua received training in Montessori methodologies and teaching dynamics.
Half the school year has passed but Fabretto still has a lot of work to do in the coming months. Working for and alongside these marvelous kids, dedicated teachers, and hopeful parents not only makes our work easier, but makes it all the more worthwhile. Fabretto believes in the power of education as a positive and enduring driving force of social and economic change. Help us make a difference and continue to support the children of Nicaragua and forever touch the lives of thousands of children.
Nicaragua´s school year just recently took off for the 2013 school year on February 11th. For this reporting period Fabretto is happy to share the 2012 school years accomplishments and end results as well as share some of the upcoming highlight for the first quarter of the new 2013 school year.
The 2012 school year ended with greatest numbers of student beneficiaries served in its history. 8,789 primary school students participated in Fabretto´s Primary Education Enrichment Program. An almost 22% increase in the previously projected target thanks to the insertion of new schools within the scope and reach of Fabretto. This number of student equals to a 94% retention rate overall, up from 91% from previous year. This increase in the number of children staying in school reflects a greater importance placed by parents on the educating their young as a result of awareness campaigns, workshops and the quality of Fabretto´s programs in education and nutrition. In addition, an average of 80% attendance rate across the board was reached.Fabretto’s program for early and primary education program is focused on improving the quality of education for students, up through the sixth grade, the last year of primary school in Nicaragua. Program activities include teacher training, provision of teaching and learning materials, infrastructure improvements, and the implementation of after school, enrichment activities, such as: tutoring, computer classes, sports, art, and school gardens. Fabretto offers these programs in seven education centers, which are owned and operated by the organization, as well as in more than 90 public, primary schools. Parental involvement is critical in this program, which also includes the organization of community education networks, and workshops for parents on issues related to the preventative health, education and well-being of their children.
As an additional impact evaluation of Fabretto’s Primary Educational Enrichment Program, students from first through third grades were given Early Grace Reading Assessment or EGRA tests in August 2011 then again in July and November of 2012. The EGRA tests are used by USAID to measure children’s fluency and reading comprehension. Since the ability to read and understand is an important component to the learning process, the EGRA results are an excellent indicator to assess the learning process experienced by children in their early years.
The test results show considerable improvement from the initial assessment in 2011 to the test results from 2012. Test results are categorized into three different levels: reading “well”, “adequate”, and “at risk”. Fabretto’s test results show improvement with children reading well initially assessed at 27% of students increasing to 52%; students at the adequate level went down from 45% to 25%, and the at risk percentage went down from 28% to 24%.
These EGRA test results are the product of Fabretto´s strong emphasis in 2011-2012 on improving reading and comprehension. Some of the initiatives and activities that resulted in an improved pedagogical and learning environment attributable to Fabretto´s reading and comprehension endeavors:
What to expect in the months to come in the 2013 school year?
Fabretto has projected several promising pieces of data. For example, Fabretto estimates that this year, with the help of all our generous donors, the number of enrolled students will grow to 8,915. In other words, Fabretto will grow its primary education services by roughly 200 students. In addition, Fabretto expects to retain 88% of the students, however recent years has shown that Fabretto meets and exceeds this number by several percentage points.
In addition, certain activities are being planned and already underway. Strengthening primary education in 2013, will begin with recreational and mathematical Olympics to further enrich primary students in arithmetic problem solving. Training and workshops will be held to refresh and familiarize beneficiaries and teachers as well. In March Fabretto will start applying tests in language classes and math to track the performance of students during term 2013. Finally teachers will be receiving training for about 140 hours on active strategies participatory curriculum development MINED, will be taught by UNAN, the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua a specialized segment for strengthening teacher nationwide.
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