Saturday, December 13, 2008

Training indigenous teachers and mothers in Paraguay

• On average indigenous children receive only 3 years schooling

• Only 58% of teachers in these communities are indigenous and most of these have little or no teacher training

• 91% of teachers do not have materials in their pupils' native language

• Illiteracy is 8 times above the national average

The harsh consequences of this are that communities are losing their language and cultural identity and children are not receiving the quality of education they need to prepare them for their future.

After a plea for help from an indigenous community in 2005, FEISA began a pre-school teacher training programme with an emphasis on learning through play – a revolutionary concept for indigenous teachers who tend to use traditional rote-learning methods.

We soon realized that what these communities most lack is training and resources as the remoteness of the schools and high expense make provision of these very difficult. We made sure that all resources were appropriate to the indigenous context and produced worksheets to develop pre-writing skills, mathematics and literacy, all in their native language, Enxet (photo 2). The aim of the programme is to provide a holistic education to enable children to grow in all aspects of their development. At the request of the community, who asked us to provide Christian education, we also produced the first ever Bible materials for children in Enxet based on the Creation story (photo 3).

This year we extended the programme to a new Enxet community, El Estribo, working with 9 indigenous schools training pre-school teachers and volunteer mothers – 17 people in total (photos 4 and 5). Along with the training, the schools were also provided with all the teaching resources and furniture they needed - many children were sitting on planks of wood for lack of tables and chairs.

The response of the teachers and children has been encouraging and heartwarming. They said that this is exactly the training and resources they have needed for years but no-one has shown any interest in them before. The children now rush to school in the morning excited to play and learn and do not want to leave at the end of the day! The training programme, with its emphasis on involving mothers in the education of their children, has enabled schools to reinforce the native language and culture where the teacher is not indigenous (photos 6, 7, 8 and 9).

We thank God for the generosity of the many donors that have made this project possible and we continue to trust Him for the funds we need to continue the project in coming years. Over 200 indigenous children have benefitted so far and many more young lives can be transformed if we are able to extend this work to other communities.