I was fortunate enough to visit some of the local communities along with a couple of project delegates who were wrapping up a three-year education program aimed at the preschool and first and second grade students to improve their English language skills. The program is called My Best and is funded by Pueblito Canada.
For three years, the project delegates held workshops with educators and parents and provided learning resources and materials for the children. But due to a lack of funds, the program is ending permanently. The workshops centred around improving relationships between parents and teachers, dealing with special needs children in the classroom and training to improve parenting skills.
The aim of this visit was to hand out computers to the students and complete evaluations of the program. At each location we met with the director of the school, the head of the communal board and a parent representative.
There were a number of things that struck me. I was pleased at the gratitude and humility of the people in the communities. I was saddened at the lack of resources in the classroom. I was grateful for the teachers who had to teach Grades 1 – 6 in one classroom and who did it with a smile.
The communities—Kahkabila, La Fe, Marshall Point and Orinoco—are only accessible by boat. The region’s ministry of education centre is Pearl Lagoon. As devoid of resources as they are, they are still better equipped than communities such as Set Net, Pueblo Nueva and others in the far north who are more remote and rarely get a visit from the ministry of education’s representatives but not because of a lack of interest.
The problem is cost. The ministry has no budget other than what is allocated for teacher salaries. Anything outside of that, from flip chart paper to chalk to gas, is a cost borne out of the teachers, directors and delegates’ own pockets. So they do the best they can with what they have and they do it with pride and love for their communities because, what else have they got?