“Students will receive material that they don’t often see, especially in rural classrooms”

“Norte de Santander is a region that is doubly affected: by migration and armed conflict. This generates emotional tensions that are reflected in the classrooms and that affect the work of teachers and teaching directors. For this reason, counting on La Aldea is providing them with a useful, easy and fun tool that allows them to bring emotionally healthy discussions to the classroom, and also be able to involve families in some class content.

La Aldea has been very well received in all the educational institutions where we have worked in Cúcuta and other municipalities in the metropolitan area. For this reason, we also evaluated the possibility of focusing La Aldea on educational institutions where the children have suffered from displacement; either their families, the boys and girls themselves or some displacement nearby.

Regarding training, La Aldea offers teachers a very friendly guidance; the sessions are close and pleasant conversational encounters for them. And this is felt even from the name of the training sessions: “A coffee with La Aldea”. They are spaces where teachers open up emotionally; socio-emotional aspects are worked on so that they can then work on them in the classroom with the students.

In addition, students will receive material that they don’t often see. Especially in the case of rural classrooms… These libraries are not as well equipped as in urban area. This is a very good quality material that reaches both children in rural areas and children in urban areas. It also has some very striking features: it has stickers, it has a poster, a separator, a cardboard paw so that boys and girls can ask permission to speak, and these things are very attractive. If they allow students to feel that the book is not just study material, but also play material, then they bond favorably with it and that allows them to make it part of their lives”.

Interview with Jorge Rangel
UNICEF Education in Emergencies Professional

“For us it is very important that teachers are trained in emergencies”

“For us it is very important that the teacher is trained in an emergency, especially in these times of uncertainty and so much risk. It is important because suddenly many teachers do not have the capacity or the tools to approach students in this particular context. When one reads or reviews the book of La Aldea, one connects with it. For the entire educational community this is fundamental, but also for parents, who are essential in the education of students.

For this reason, La Aldea is a very pertinent strategy and it is very transversal. Not only because of the purely cognitive training, but because of the comprehensive training that has to do with being and how children are capable of facing situations on an emotional level. To the extent that the student feels empowered, trained and with all this socio-emotional training, this will be reflected in their performance and development.

The pandemic has taught us a lesson: we always have to be adapting to change and we have to be prepared, which is why I believe that La Aldea is more relevant than ever and allows all those who are part of the educational community to have that mentality of adaptation. necessary to deal with education in an emergency situation”.

Interview with Carolina Marulanda
Undersecretary of Pedagogical Research and Development of the Secretary of Education of Cúcuta

“La Aldea is directly related to our context”

The Colegio Puerto Santander Educational Institution is located in a border town with Venezuela surrounded by 3 large rivers and inhabited by a floating population that comes and goes across the bridge that connects both countries. Displacement, social conflict and families with many economic difficulties are some of the characteristics of this corner of Colombia in Norte de Santander. A high percentage of the institution’s courses are made up of migrant boys and girls. Their families face great difficulties, but they struggle to give their children a better present.

We spoke with Ángela Sandoval, a teacher at the institution, who told us what impact the arrival of La Aldea has had on the educational community:

Click: After the training processes with La Aldea, do you plan to implement the strategy with the students?

Ángela: In 2022 we begin the implementation of La Aldea and we are sure that the impact will be positive on our students. La Aldea is directly related to our context and also addresses transversality, an element that we are implementing at the school. From the study plan, analyzing the resources that La Aldea provides us, we observe that it is created through problematic situations. From the academic management and from the academic council, the community has been planning and guiding so that the learning processes with the students are based on problems. The objective is that they can analyze these problems and learn to be more critical. That is our orientation and La Aldea comes with that same purpose, with that same thread of analysis. It will complement us.

C: Is La Aldea necessary in an educational community like Puerto Santander?

A: It supports us and is a very significant resource for our teaching-learning processes. All the material, resources and methodology of La Aldea will help us a lot to delve into student learning in a meaningful and creative way because of everything that this universe offers us.

C: From an aesthetic point of view, what is your opinion of La Aldea?

A: The book of La Aldea is very complete, varied, funny, special. It brings many tools that encourage the interest of students. The size, the color, the characters, the challenges, the exercises… it is a book that children can easily continue at home and can continue to explore and develop, without the need for a guide. They are easily understandable materials and promote autonomous learning.

“La Aldea is a tool that allows us teachers to implement another way of motivating reading. In addition, boys and girls learn to build challenges and find solutions to everyday things. It allows us to reinforce knowledge and gives us the possibility of working in a different and educational way. I think it is a book that impacts us all. Both the students and us teachers.

Julieth Villamizar Daza, Spanish and social teacher at the Puerto Santander School (N. de Santander, border with Venezuela)

“I find La Aldea very educational and it can be of great help. Especially now that we have lived through two years of a pandemic. Through stories, La Aldea helps us get students back to class and take ownership of learning. It is definitely a tool that allows us to help children to adapt more easily”.

Blanca Zulima Payares Santiago, elementary school teacher at the Colegio Puerto Santander Educational Institution (border with Venezuela)

La Aldea is very beautiful. Boys and girls like it because it keeps them active and creative. The book and the stories of La Aldea are acted out by animals that live together in a space that, in real life, could be our neighborhood, the municipality, the department, Colombia or the world. The stories represent what we are living now. In addition, the text is very transversal, since practically all areas can be worked through.

Alirio Reyes Beltrán, coordinator of the San José del Trigal Educational Institution (Cúcuta)

Since we implemented La Aldea in the institution, the attitude of the students has been one of motivation. They are always willing to participate because they love the characters and identify with them.

La Aldea is a valuable tool because it has allowed them to improve their reading and comprehension processes, while working in a very didactic way. And the best thing is that it can be used in any area, since it has a transversal approach. From math, science, caring for the environment, reading, ethics, to sharing.

Marlobi Barrera Gómez, teacher at the San José del Trigal Educational Institution (Cúcuta)

“La Aldea is a very good program. The teachers are delighted and are asking to expand it. The teacher who leads the process (Tatiana Mendoza) has been a very good leader. La Aldea served as the basis for a significant experience to be created in the elementary school for the municipality of San José de Cúcuta, which was selected as a finalist; This allowed teachers to understand that new tools and trainings such as these can generate new and better results. Also, the students are fascinated; the readings and all the activities are nice, and are adapted to the context”.

Miguel Orlando Peñaranda, principal of the San José del Trigal Educational Institution (Cúcuta)

In this context, projects like La Aldea-UNICEF are key to helping boys and girls get ahead

In the San José Educational Institution, located in the Trigal del Norte neighborhood, in Cúcuta, hundreds of boys and girls who live in very vulnerable contexts are cared for. The families that form part of the educational community belong to the lowest socioeconomic strata, for the most part. In addition, between 30% and 40% of the classrooms are made up of migrant students from Venezuela. Only last year, the institution received 450 boys and girls from the neighboring country.

The migrant families who arrived in the community crossed the border with just one bag, and arrived in a very serious situation. The children of these families have been given the educational attention they need. But it is not a simple situation, says Miguel Orlando Peñaranda, principal of the institution. The school’s resources are not extensive, so serving all these students is a challenge. In addition, other difficulties have come to light throughout the health crisis.

“Families did not have connectivity in their homes. Guides were created in the midst of the pandemic, but they did not come to pick them up. If the mother or father had a cell phone, then they did not have enough data… with three children, the option to enter class was a privilege. Virtuality in this context is a lie and it is clear that the pandemic did damage in the poorest contexts”, the principal comments. “Some 40% of students attended class every day, 30% via WhatsApp, and barely 15% participated in virtual classes,” he adds.

In this context, says Miguel Orlando, projects or initiatives like La Aldea-UNICEF are key in helping children to get ahead. “We have to make up for lost time and in this task, a pedagogical strategy like La Aldea is essential,” he says. This has to do with the approach it offers: it’s transversal, it’s contextualized, it’s fun, it’s creative, it’s different, and that motivates students.

In fact, La Aldea has been implemented in this institution for some years, with an impact on both teachers and students. “Since we implemented La Aldea in the institution, the attitude of the students has been one of motivation. They are always willing to participate because they love the characters and identify with them. La Aldea is a valuable tool because it has allowed them to improve their reading and comprehension processes, while working in a very didactic way. And the best thing is that it can be used in any area, since it has a transversal approach. From math, science, and caring for the environment, to reading and ethics,” says Marlobi Barrera, one of the teachers who works with La Aldea in her classroom.

The teachers, says the principal, are delighted with La Aldea and are asking to extend the implementation of the strategy. In addition, using the book and all its associated activities and tools has served as a basis for achieving other goals:

“La Aldea served to create a significant experience in elementary school for the municipality of San José de Cúcuta, which was selected as a finalist; This allowed teachers to understand that new tools and training such as these can generate new and better results. In addition, the students are fascinated because the readings and all the activities, in addition to being nice, are adapted to the context”.

The challenges of teaching and learning in territory

The formation process of La Aldea in Pondores, the Old Territorial Training and Reincorporation Space in La Guajira, has been carried out since 2020 by three migrant sisters and educational leaders: Betsabé, Yineth and Madeleine. In the last visit made by Click and UNICEF in December 2021, three more participants joined the sessions: Moises, 14, and two young people, 18 and 19 years old.

Specifically, five sessions were developed in which the first four stories of La Aldea were addressed: Stories for a world in transition. Additionally, an introduction was made for those who did not know the stories and a space was created to talk about pedagogy and socio-emotional learning; none of the participants had previously had training in pedagogy or didactics. But there was an additional surprise on our last visit to Pondores: 8 boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 10 joined the sessions. Although it was unplanned, the methodology was adapted so that they could be part of the process.

Our journey through Pondores was loaded with activities to expand emotional vocabulary, the exploration of emotions and art, life projects, social cartography and recognition of characters from La Aldea; as well as reflections on the infant brain, early childhood learning needs, conscious didactics, extracurricular learning places and the importance of the community in the educational process.

The participants expressed appreciation because they consider it essential to open extracurricular educational spaces, especially in this scenario in which boys and girls spend a lot of time alone because their caregivers have to go out to work all day in the fields. Added to this are a large number of out-of-school children and an early childhood that does not receive any type of care due to the inactivity of the Child Development Center (CDI) and the Care and Attention Unit (UCA). In addition to the show of gratitude, fears were expressed in relation to their work; these leaders by vocation worry that they are not doing their school reinforcement work well. Not having the opportunity to study a professional or technical career in Colombia, they seek more support in terms of development and strengthening of teaching skills. An additional problem: the lack of income associated with work, income necessary to support their children and families, which represents a risk for the continuity and sustainability of educational processes.

Girls and boys alone in houses with dangerous snakes that threaten their lives and health; lack of suitable and safe facilities; few recreational areas and little connectivity… These are just some of the challenges for a forgotten corner that is not prepared for a quality education. Despite this, women like Betsabé and her sisters stand for education and work daily to strengthen the participation of young people in processes of social change and in supporting children. The goal: to generate alliances that make it possible to bolster educational processes like La Aldea, and especially the accompaniment processes for guaranteeing quality education and the integral development of boys and girls in the community.

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