Education  Chile Project #42817

Empower and educate teenage mothers in Chile

by Fundacion de Beneficencia Hogar de Cristo
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Empower and educate teenage mothers in Chile
Empower and educate teenage mothers in Chile
Empower and educate teenage mothers in Chile
Empower and educate teenage mothers in Chile
Empower and educate teenage mothers in Chile
Empower and educate teenage mothers in Chile
Empower and educate teenage mothers in Chile

At Hogar de Cristo we believe that our role is to make the invisible visible. We want to show the reality of the poorest and most vulnerable children and young people, who do not march or protest, who do not ask for demands, who have no hope. Before the pandemic, there were 186 thousand, in 2021 there was talk of some 40 thousand more. Today we do not know. There is no priority in counting them. There are more urgent issues, more political, in terms of education.

It is necessary to take care of a type of student who has everything against him: repetitions, expulsions, bullying, absences, annotations, reputation of conflictive. Adversities that are the product of a variety of problems: social, economic, family, learning. In other words, a boy, girl or young person, who seems to everyone "a piece of shit".

But the world, especially those who live in poverty and exclusion, is full of "cachos" and in order for them to stop being so, a specialized educational offer of reentry is required. A dedicated, financed and ad hoc attention to their reality.

When we face the problems in education, it usually happens that what is urgent eats up what is important and the dilemma is always where to start from. This is the main challenge for decision makers and public policy designers. The pandemic has left large learning gaps in the cognitive and socioemotional areas, as well as in the academic area. But it has also left many by the wayside. Out.  Dropout, as the gringos say.

The government talks about educational justice and the installation of a new paradigm of education. All relevant but not a priority if we think of those who are out of the system and we must recover. Getting them to return, to re-enter the system through restorative and meaningful educational experiences, should be a matter of life or death for everyone. It is a priority for the country, especially when we see so many young people co-opted by delinquency and drug trafficking in the most vulnerable areas.

We see with concern that "once again" this invisible population is left out of the big plans. And it is strange, because if we talk about educational justice, it should be the first priority: children and young people who dropped out of the education system even before the pandemic and who every day see the impossibility of recovering their right to education.  

Going back to school after many failures and, in some cases, at an age that does not correspond to "normal", is not an easy decision. In Súmate's schools, each student has different stories and motivations, but they are united by the desire to advance.

For example, Javiera (20), whose goal is to finish high school:

"I'm in the first and second year of high school. Last year I wanted to finish first and second but I had a lot of problems. In my adolescence I went through many things and the support the school has given me has been great. Thank God I am better. I haven't been absent, like the other years when I didn't come to class. I had a lot of delays. The Súmate school is a great support because the teachers are not only concerned about your homework, but also about how you are emotionally. They have always been a support for me. When I was a kid I was very lonely and spent all day here because there were problems at home, and they were always aware of my situation."


It took me a while to go back to school, but here I am. I had to work, make money. But then I said, "Now, I'm going to start studying". I talked it over with my mom, I told her I was going to study because it's bad that everyone has finished fourth grade and I'm only in first grade. If tomorrow I have a son, a family, I want to tell him: "Son, I got my fourth year of high school with a two by one, so go to school no more". Today, when I'm 20 and I'm in my first and second year of high school, I have a different mentality.

In the jobs they ask for your fourth year of high school, high school, but there are only false resumes and I don't like to lie. Besides, everyone has a high school diploma. My mom, everybody. Except my dad, but that's a different story. But I want to have my fourth year of high school, that's my goal. 

This is an integration school and the majority of us who come here is because in the other schools they did not receive us because of learning and attention problems, which is already a problem for that school. Second, if the child is bold, has problems and is a problem for that school, they will not receive him. But not here. They receive you. They level you until you are on par with your grade.

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The executive director of Fundación Emplea, Jorge Gaju, gives a clear picture of how the pandemic further damaged the labor exclusion of the country's most vulnerable women, even damaging the precarious subsistence livelihoods with which they support themselves and their children.

Today in Chile almost 800 thousand people are not working. They are the so-called "potential inactive", those who, having the talent, the ability and the need, do not manage to overcome by themselves the entry barriers that allow access to the labor market. And they resign themselves to not looking for work. And the most unfair and unfortunate thing is that 65% percent of these 1.5 million potential inactive people are women.

This is explained, in the first place, because before the pandemic and its consequences on employment, they were already in a situation of historical labor disadvantage. Currently, 47% of women participate in the labor market versus 69% of men. And, secondly, because they have always participated in sectors of the economy that have been hard hit by COVID-19, such as domestic service, commerce, tourism and gastronomy, where, in addition, due to the greater physical proximity involved, the risk of contagion is much greater.

As an old and wise feminist recently told me, "looking for some advantage to the impact of the pandemic, let's say that it made visible the tremendous role that women play in the functioning of the economy, although it has not yet translated into anything concrete, except for a growing demand for these care tasks to be paid".

Women do 2.5 times more domestic work than men, which prevents or hinders them from accessing paid employment and/or forces them to combine paid employment with unpaid work. "Women's unpaid work supports the need for care that sustains families, supports economies and often fills gaps in social services, yet it is rarely recognized as work," states a UN Women document.

Another unfortunate aspect of the pandemic is that there is a wide gap that prevents the connection between those seeking work and the companies that need workers. Today, as never before, as a result of the pandemic, there is a need for paid personnel capable of managing small budgets, educating and caring for minors and the elderly, cooking, among other tasks in which housewives carry out, but it is difficult to bring together those who need this service with those who can perform it.

We see this a lot at Fundación Emplea: despite their talent, many women who want to work do not know how to enter the formal labor market, they do not know how to overcome such basic obstacles as how to prepare a résumé, meet schedules, or know who to contact. These women, who are often heads of household, lack contact networks to find formal jobs and do not really know where to start. There is also a strong inertia of informality, which means that people with precarious jobs have much less chance of getting "decent" jobs.

And finally, there is learned hopelessness, which is the lack of growth expectations that poor women feel, accustomed to being discriminated against because of the community where they live, how they speak, how they dress or because they are missing a tooth, despite having all the ability and desire to work.

 In Women's Month, with a government that starts full of pro-women symbols, women's employment must be a priority and for this Fundación Emplea believes that the State must advance in giving a more important role to labor intermediation, turning it into a relevant public policy that complements the current training system. As a candidate repeated in a few seconds in a past election campaign, the demand is: work, work, work with a focus on them, the women.

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Two directors of Integrated Adult Education Centers (CEIA) of Coyhaique and Parral, as well as a school holder in the vulnerable sector of Bajos de Mena and the El Castillo population, in the capital, were the pioneers in integrating the new Network of Schools of Reentry promoted by Fundación Súmate (Hogar de Cristo), América Solidaria and the consulting firm Focus.

The objective is to create a space for exchanging experiences and professional development, generating common projects and advocating for public policies to solve problems that these schools have, because there is the paradox that many of these adult education centers work actually with young people who were excluded from the school system.



Hugolino González, supporter of the Novomar School in Puente Alto, works with children and adolescents from vulnerable sectors such as Bajos de Mena and the El Castillo population.

He is one of the first members of the Network of Reentry Schools and he says that he did it mainly because "it makes no sense to fight alone." He says that he has been linked to education for 20 years, the last 4 as the sole supporter. "We wanted to make an inclusive school but as the educational system is so complex and exclusive, we finally had to take charge of these children who have difficulties staying in school."

His main motivation to join the Network is to be able to specify that these schools are recognized as a modality with specific needs and secure financing, with different evaluations. “It is a desire that crosses all of us who work in this context, basically it is to have a public policy focused on this reality. The expectations that I have with this Network is that together with hundreds of other schools we can first make visible what we do and the difficulties we face, to later influence a public policy that really benefits the most vulnerable children and young people in society: today more than having answers for them, what the educational system does is cause them the problem, excluding them ”.

Hugolino González is convinced that there is a general opinion that children drop out because he or she is a problem, "but we know that the pedagogical models themselves are the main obstacles for them to remain in their schools."



David Navarro, CEIA director, assures that his region is the one with the highest percentage of school dropout prevalence, according to studies carried out by the Ministry of Education itself, based on data from CASEN.

“As of 2018, we began to take on this problem, we have managed to reintegrate 400 young people who were outside the school system. The phenomenon is so broad and complex that we realized that it was necessary to establish this Network, to work together with people who have the same approach to school reintegration. First we formed networks in Coyhaique and later we made links with the Súmate foundation. For us it is very important to join forces ”, he explains.

The Network of Reentry Schools meets online on Wednesdays every 15 days. "The worrying thing here is that the number of those who drop out of schools does not decrease, the regular schools do so badly that this figure continues to rise," he concludes.

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In the vast and diverse world of Santiago, the multidisciplinary team of social worker Claudio Polloni is looking for students for the socio-educational program of Fundación Súmate.

-The teenagers excluded from the school system in 2020 increased by 40.000, according to the authorities. They are in all the communes and corners of Chile, but, despite this, it is difficult to find them and seduce them into going back to school, because many times they themselves do not know that they need us, that they require school. Such is their level of deprivation and other emergencies, that for them schooling is not a priority. That is why they must be approached thinking about their needs: a trade workshop, which allows them to learn a job to generate resources and overcome the economic problem, is a priority. Or a digital training course or a support workshop in mental health and self-care.

The professional says that children and young people themselves become invisible, busy as they are in their daily survival. He points out that, for this reason, these Súmate socio-educational programs have been refocused, putting all efforts to restore the right to education to the most vulnerable within the vulnerable.

Today they have 360 vacancies and so far they have only 304 students attending virtual classes and workshops. 52% of them are women, they are between 8 and 21 years old, they are two years behind in school and / or that same time out of school, the highest percentage is in second grade. Some of them are also pregnant. Claudio comments that it costs less to re-enchant young women, women, in these hard times with their unemployment quotas, lack of income, illness, risk of contagion, domestic violence. Get them to re-signify school experiences, which, in most cases, have usually been very frustrating, offering them concrete and practical tools.

-How can children and young people so vulnerable and with so many socioeconomic difficulties connect digitally? With what tools? How do they do that?

-The digital literacy issue is a central, critical issue. The teenagers have no problems with social networks; in that world they handle themselves perfectly, no matter how modest the cell phone they have. The problem is in their ignorance of work programs such as Power Point, Word, Excel and with platforms, such as Meet and Zoom and others. That makes it difficult to do remote classes. There you can see their ignorance and their need for training. The good thing is that this year we have a hook to attract them: we give each enrolled student a free connection chip for the whole year. That solves the connectivity issue for us, which in 2020 was critical. Now, with this resource, if we lose contact with any of them, we go out to the field to locate them and find out what is wrong with them.

-The accompaniment we do consists of a reception and diagnosis stage and the construction of an individual work plan that can include workshops focused on pedagogical leveling, development of socio-emotional skills, recreational, cultural and sports activities. We also seek that the boys and girls manage to validate their studies, certify them for their educational continuity and / or enrollment in educational establishments. We do this in a blended and / or completely virtual way, depending on the sanitary conditions in the territories –explains the social worker. 

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We hope this message finds you well and that you are handling these uncertain times as  good as possible.

From Hogar de Cristo we wanted to let you know our current situation of our organization in Chile and how we have been carrying out our project focused on young mothers.

As you may already know, in Chile, more than 200,000 children and young people are outside the educational system. With the current health crisis this number will surely increase. Women drop out less, but when they do, they don't return. School exclusion is much more damaging and limiting future opportunities for girls and young women since they tend to stay at home, sacrificing their right to education, taking care of housework, younger siblings or an older or disabled relative , so that adults can go out and generate income. For the most part, it is the issue of caring for others that is behind female dropping out of school, which includes that of their own babies, in the case of teenage pregnancies. And although these have been decreasing in recent years, according to 2018 figures, 50% of pregnant schoolchildren do not continue studying.

Gender inequality is then expressed in this fundamental right -education-, which is also key for the promotion of people and so that poverty does not continue to reproduce inter-generationally, from grandmothers to mothers and from mothers to daughters. In Chile, three-quarters of those who neither study nor work are women. Apart from that, only 48% of women participate in the labor market and, on average, receive 25% lower remuneration compared to men. Although there are several factors that influence this gender inequality, one of the most influencing is the educational system.

Due to the pandemic, education became much more complex than usual. In Chile, Face-to-face education has not returned. Furthermore, the country is facing a new wave with new communities in quarantines.

Our students have needed more emotional support than ever. They have shown how much they miss the protective space of the school and we have responded with constant monitoring online, giving distance classes through our Virtual Learning Classrooms and creating new workshops to motivate them and continue teaching. We never lost contact with them. These new learning experiences are now a successful reality. Young mothers are super grateful, they perceive us as a recess from everything bad. For them it is a moment of relaxation, a space for personal and group care. We work with a wide variety of topics, topics that they themselves raised with their tutors that we later transformed into new workshops.

We have been able to achieve this transformation because of your support. Your contribution has meant being able to continue providing quality education to hundreds of young mothers throughout the country. We work so that many more can complete their educational careers and their personal dreams, without sexist barriers or economic, social, cultural limitations. So that the "intersectionality" of their disadvantages: being a woman, a mother, vulnerable, part of an indigenous minority, living in a rural sector, do not become the sum of all evils. We really thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your help that is giving hope and a future to so many young people.

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Organization Information

Fundacion de Beneficencia Hogar de Cristo

Location: Santiago - Chile
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Hdecristo
Project Leader:
Daniela Tosti-Croce
Santiago, Chile
$4,686 raised of $25,000 goal
32 donations
$20,314 to go
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