A mother participates in the workshop
Johanny and Sandy are the team behind the Primary Education Scholarships project. They work with families who are determined to give their children the opportunity to study in spite of considerable social and economic obstacles.
Each year, Johanny and Sandy host a series of workshops for parents of students sponsored through the project. They decided to focus this year’s sessions on a topic relevant to our partner communities: school dropout and how to prevent it.
On Wednesday, June 12, Johanny and Sandy were setting up for a workshop in Panabaj, one of the four neighborhoods of Santiago Atitlán where sponsored students live and study. As they dragged chairs into place, mothers of sponsored students arrived one after another, some with younger children in tow.
The facilitators began the session by introducing the day’s theme. “We want to hear from you,” Johanny continued. “What factors contribute to school dropout in your community?” The participants’ answers ranged from bullying at school to economic concerns to a lack of support from teachers. Sandy wrote down each answer on a large wall display.
Then, Sandy asked the mothers, “What can we as parents do about these problems? How can we make sure our children have the support they need to stay in school?” The participants had plenty of ideas, questions, and frustrations to share. One mother suggested regular meetings with the child’s teacher. Another countered that her child’s teacher has been uninterested in even talking with her. Johanny proposed, “If your child’s teacher is not helpful, try speaking with the school principal—you have every right to request support from your child’s school.”
Sandy and Johanny also urged parents to promote gender equity in their homes. “It is important that our sons and our daughters have the same opportunities, including the opportunity to study,” Johanny told participants, “and this starts at home. Our daughters shouldn’t be the only ones helping to sweep and wash and cook—our sons can help too!” Teaching children that girls are just as smart and capable as boys will help them to succeed in school despite obstacles, she explained.
After many rounds of questions, answers, suggestions, and follow-ups, the facilitators shared a snack with the participants and the mothers set off for home once again. Johanny and Sandy packed up their materials and headed back to the office. Now that they have wrapped up their workshops in all four communities, they will interview participating mothers to see what they learned and what our team can do better next time.
Johanny feels that she gains as much from facilitating these workshops as the mothers do from participating. “It’s important that the mothers we work with feel they can trust us, and these sessions help us build rapport,” she says. “When we show that we’re listening, that we’re here to help, the mothers are more likely to reach out to us when their children are having trouble in school.” It is this dedication to individual mothers, students, and families that makes Johanny and Sandy such valuable allies. Your support of the Primary Education Scholarships project makes all of this possible: greater understanding, stronger collaboration, and smarter problem-solving that keeps kids learning, growing, and attending school!
Johanny facilitates the discussion
Mothers of sponsored students attend the workshop
Sandy listens to a participant's suggestion
A mother and her young daughter look on
Johanny and Sandy after the workshop