Since launching the LEER in the fall of 2015, Voices on the Border staff along with communities in the Bajo Lempa have made significant progress in advancing two of the project’s three goals: creating a regional board of education; and reforming the school curriculum.
Board of Education
Communities in the Bajo Lempa are enthusiastic about organizing a school board. The original idea was to develop one regional board of education to serve all the schools and communities in the region. This idea has developed in the recent months to better reflect the reality and desires of the participating communities. The middle school in Amando Lopez, for example, serves youth from 9 communities. Instead of participating in a larger regional board, the school wants to create its own board that represents the parents and community leaders from the 9 communities. That is the case with other schools in the region as well. Instead of trying to integrate into a larger organization, the schools are more interested in organizing their own groups so they have more support from and better represent the parents and communities they serve. This makes a lot of sense, and might lead to a larger community board sometime in the future.
Voices is working with the middle school in Amando Lopez in organizing their board. Much like a pilot project, we will take the experiences and lessons learned from this effort to other schools in the region. And many other schools are paying attention to the process, and want to get started on their own organization soon. The Ministry of Education is also enthusiastic and supportive of the effort, knowing that it will make schools stronger and better able to meet the needs of the students.
Reforming the School Curriculum
The curriculum for schools in the Bajo Lempa is handed down from the Ministry of Education. Almost every school in El Salvador uses the same curriculum – some of it is good and relevant to students, and some of it is irrelevant and even inaccurate. With LEER, Voices is helping school administrators to start reforming parts of their curriculum. This will be a long process and require the assistance of other outside experts.
In 2015 Voices began strengthening our relationships with the Salvadoran Teachers Union and other experts in education. They are very supportive of the idea to reform the curriculum for schools in the Bajo Lempa and have offered to help any way they can. In the coming month Voices will work with the Union to hire a consultant in education to guide the reformation process and train teachers to implement the new courses.
Another next step is to identify what topics to begin with. Some of the ideas discussed so far include climate change, sustainable agriculture, food sovereignty, and others important to living in rural El Salvador. Communities in the mangrove forests also have interests in courses that focus more on biology and forest management. Voices and other civil society organizations in the region will help compile information and the education consultant will work with schools to create a teachable program.
The courses and materials created availableto any school that wants them. In the future we will hold workshops and trainings with other schools to present the project and invite them to participate.
Voices and the participating schools have yet to begin addressing the special education objective. All those involved agree that it is an important objective, but want to get the school boards organized and identify experts in the field to assist them. Once an expert is identified, we will work with school administrators to select a cadre of teachers to become special education experts.
Thank you for your support of this important initiative!