Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of students from disadvantaged backgrounds have struggled to access education as schools implemented remote learning systems. In Batey Libertad, where Yspaniola works, the local public school switched to online classes, and we watched in dismay as most students struggled to access schooling due to a lack of technology and regular internet access.
As we braced for a possible decrease in funding, the opposite happened! We at Yspaniola were overwhelmed by our donors’ generous response to our emergency fundraising campaigns, including GlobalGiving donors like you, who, during our Little by Little fundraiser for COVID-19 support, donated over double the amount we had raised in previous campaigns - amazing!
Your generosity compelled us to work harder than ever to maintain our support for students and their families in the face of COVID-19 economic and academic difficulties. We used your funds to:
- Adapt our classroom management and class structure to continue to deliver daily in-person classes to over 50 students who were at a critical stage in their literacy development
- Provide food relief for students and their families
- Offer fun, literacy-focused competitions for all community youth
Since the Dominican vaccine program kicked off, all adults and all children over the age of 12 in Batey Libertad have been offered the vaccine. This enabled students to return to their classrooms this September and at Yspaniola too, we were able to bounce back and re-energize some of our key programs.
This semester, we have focused on two important aspects of education: healthy lunch boxes (see our other GlobalGiving Project: Healthy Lunchboxes for our Preschoolers) and high-quality programming in our preschool classes.
In Preschool, we were finally able to re-open our Kinder class for four-year-old students, which provides one additional year of Early Childhood Education (ECE) to children in Batey Libertad.
A second year of preschool has been shown to contribute substantial gains in cognitive outcomes [1,2] along with substantially improved future earnings and health benefits of up to $10 generated for each $1 invested in an additional year of schooling in low-income countries .
In addition to our Kinder Class, we have also continued our classes for students aged five to seven years, with a total of 56 students enrolled in Yspaniola's preschool program.
While it’s too early to see the results of our Kinder students, positioning tests conducted this semester will allow us to track our youngest students’ academic and cognitive developments throughout their first year of formal schooling.
The highlight of our back-to-school evaluations this year has been our older students, now aged six and seven years old. Most of these children are now entering their third year of Yspaniola classes. This group has already demonstrated marked improvements on their tests this year, compared to last.
One of the key elements we test is students' letter recognition skills. We noted that while this group has demonstrated excellent letter recognition advances on the letters that we have taught in our classes, when we speculatively tested other letters, they showed little to no knowledge, despite being in their second year of public school classes.
This is likely a reflection of the past year, where these students lost out on their first year of public schooling because of the pandemic. It demonstrates the crucial role that Yspaniola’s in-person classes have played throughout the crisis, and will continue to play as we accompany these students through their first year of in-person public schooling.
Despite increased government investment in the country’s education system over the past few years, the persistent poor quality of public school provision in the Dominican Republic was highlighted in a recent study published by the Dominican government, which showed that 62.3% of 10-year-olds in the country cannot read and understand a basic text .
In light of this reality, at Yspaniola we are challenging ourselves to work even harder this year, with a holistic set of goals for each of our preschool classes which encompass literacy, motor, cognitive and socio-emotional skills. Our dedicated teaching team is more motivated than ever to achieve the new goals they have set, and to contribute to breaking cycles of intergenerational inequality by turning the tables on state-wide low academic performance, which disproportionately affects children in batey and other rural communities.
We are deeply grateful to all our GlobalGiving donors for giving so generously throughout this time, and making all this work possible - thank you!
 Yoshikawa, H., Weiland, C., Brooks-Gunn, J., Burchinal, P., Espinosa, L., Ludwig, J.O., Magnuson, K., & Zaslow, M.J. (2013). Investing in our future: The evidence base on preschool education. New York: Foundation for Child Development and Washington, DC: Society for Research in Child Development
 Engle, P. L., Fernald, L. C., Alderman, H., Behrman, J., O'Gara, C., Yousafzai, A., ... & Global Child Development Steering Group. (2011). Strategies for reducing inequalities and improving developmental outcomes for young children in low-income and middle-income countries. The Lancet, 378(9799), 1339-1353.
 Schäferhoff, M., Evans, D., Burnett, N., Komaromi, P., Kraus, J., Levin, A., & Jamison, D. T. (2016). Estimating the economic returns of education from a health perspective. Berlin: The Education Commission, SEEK Development.
 Boletín de Competitividad Sectorial, 2021, Ministerio de Economía, Planificación y Desarrollo (MEPyD)