Over the course of the last six months everything has drastically changed for GoPhil partner Aula Mágica, as has been the case for almost everyone around the globe. With strict lockdown enforced across Guatemala and classrooms closed since March, staff at Aula Mágica have been navigating uncharted waters as they learn how to adapt their programs and plan for the future. While restrictions have been lifted for many industries in Guatemala, classrooms remain closed.

According to UNESCO, approximately 1.2 billion students from more than 190 countries have been affected by the interruption of face-to-face education since mid-March. Of these, 168.5 million are in Latin America, and staff and teachers at Aula Mágica have most definitely felt the repercussions of school closures in their rural communities.

The following highlights the changes that have occurred at Aula Mágica during the first six months of 2020.

January 2020

Aula Mágica conducted their first teacher training of the year in January with 27 Facilitators and 3 Community Coordinators. For 5 days they shared best practices for early childhood stimulation and learning methods. The training was carried out in Chiantla, Huehuetenango, and Aula Mágica Founder, Fred Zambroski, was present during training.

“It is always enriching that our Founder is at our training at the beginning of the year. And of course, the opportunity for all of the team to share and exchange ideas, cultures and meet people from different departments is exciting for everyone!”
• Aula Mágica Staff •

In January, Community Coordinators hosted meetings with students’ family members to talk about the importance of sending their children to preschool, nutrition, upcoming class schedules, and to establish dates for meetings that would be held during the year. Aula Mágica staff also spent two weeks in Quiché, Huehuetenango and Sololá in January with the purpose of making new alliances with other organizations that share similar missions.

Just days after finishing the annual training, classrooms began to open to receive students across Aula Mágica’s rural classrooms.

February – March 2020

During the month of February and beginning of March, weight, height and hemoglobin monitoring was conducted for 250 students as part of the nutrition program supported by Chispuditos, provider of an atol (nutritional beverage) that each of the children receive every day at Aula Mágica.

Due to COVID-19 and strict lockdown across Guatemala, all classrooms closed during the second week of March 2020. As such, Aula Mágica staff were unable to do most of the assessments at the beginning of the year as planned to identify each student’s initial learning level. Similarly, they were unable to continue meetings with families as planned, as the virus directly impacted various communities where Aula Mágica classrooms are located.

April – June 2020

Since March, Aula Mágica’s Facilitators and Community Coordinators have been working from their homes across Guatemala. They are actively studying new teaching materials, reading various children’s books, and adapting to new teaching techniques and work strategies, as well as working on didactic learning materials made with recycled elements. Aula Mágica’s General Trainer assigns them different types of jobs/tasks each week to prepare them for when schools eventually reopen. Facilitators and Community Coordinators are also in regular communication with students and their families in an effort to continue monitoring wellbeing and how local restrictions are impacting their lives.

“We had to reorganize our program completely.
Face-to-face classes were and remain suspended.”

• Aula Mágica Staff •

Since lockdown, each Facilitator, Coordinator and administrative staff member has received a monthly stipend, and a great effort has been made to ensure that the monthly stipend is not interrupted. This is paramount during such uncertain times where many families, typically the father, have been left without a stable income to provide for basic necessities of survival.

Aula Mágica has distributed food support to 200 families of students and for the communities where they work, and each Facilitator and Coordinator has also received support from the program in emergency food packages. At the moment, Aula Mágica staff are busy preparing the second delivery of emergency food distribution with support from the GoPhil Rapid Response Fund.

“Despite the situation we are experiencing, we continue forward with a positive attitude and working hard. We are aware of each person who makes up our work team, and will continue to support everyone in whatever way necessary and within our capabilities. We have faith and hope that this situation will pass, and that we can continue with our activities in our classrooms soon.”
Aula Mágica Staff •

GoPhil partners are actively focusing on long-term solutions within their communities. It is unknown as to when classrooms will reopen, but Aula Mágica staff are wholly committed to preparing for when that day arrives and focusing on repurposing grant funding accordingly to maximize their impact.

We are incredibly grateful to Aula Mágica and Rapid Response Fund supporters for your ongoing generosity and for allowing space for a flexible and rapid response in these uncertain times.