In Nicaragua, keeping children in school and on track is an enormous challenge. Children often drop out during the school year to work to support their families or fail to pass the grade level. Government data estimates that 47% of students in rural areas have repeated at least one grade level, and repetition is strongly correlated with poverty.
Our primary enrichment programs work to change that. Last year, almost all of our students stayed in school (94%) and passed to the next grade level (93%) - an enormous accomplishment in Nicaragua, and especially in vulnerable communities. From 2011-2013, with Fabretto programs, the percentage of children reading At or Above Grade Level more than doubled. By focusing on ensuring early grade literacy, we help children master the basics to reduce drop outs and grade repetition.
Children also need to be engaged and interested in school to develop a love of learning. Fabretto's after school enrichment programs introduce children to new activities that they do not experience in regular public school classes. Volunteers are a key part of this program, sharing their expertise in music, sports, technology, arts & crafts, and more.
This quarter, a volunteer named Camilo led a group of primary students in an introductory photography workshop in rural San Jose de Cusmapa. With support from Fabretto enrichment teachers Hilda and Milenia, Camilo taught his students about the basics of photography. Camilo reflected, "'In communities as isolated and poor as Cusmapa, a workshop like this is something totally unique and provides them with a great opportunity to explore their creative side, have access to technology, and get to be excited about learning from the photos they have taken so that they improve in every class.''
The kids had a blast! One student explained, "We were really excited about this workshop and to take advantage of the opportunity to learn how to take good pictures." With Camilo, the students learned how to use a digital camera, went into the field, and took photos of their environment, families, and friends - an incredible opportunity. You can follow the video series, "Desde Mi Lente," or Picture My World in English, on the Fabretto blog to learn more about this initiative and its results.
With the support of dedicated volunteers like Camilo, Fabretto's enrichment program will continue to motivate students to stay in school and discover the possibilities of education.
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.
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