Aula Mágica • Guatemala
Due to its mountainous geography and turbulent history, Guatemala is a highly fragmented country with many rural, largely indigenous communities living in isolation, lacking access to basic needs and social services. With the nearest government schools and other state services several hours away, these remote communities face perpetual disadvantages and struggle to educate and prepare their children for a successful future.
On average, 27% of students throughout the country drop out or fail the first grade and many others simply do not attend school – the majority of them coming from highly rural, indigenous communities. Aula Mágica believes that all children deserve the same opportunities to succeed in school as their peers, regardless of their origin. Aula Mágica aims to achieve this equality by providing access to high-quality, early childhood education: a seed of opportunity that allows all children to grow and thrive.
“We know that together, everything is possible, right? It is a beautiful sentiment that speaks to a great truth. Like the name of our program, ‘Magical Classrooms,’ together we can create magic and very positive results for all our children.”
– Rosa Maria, Aula Mágica Program Coordinator –
Pre-primary Education: Aula Mágica preschools provide high-quality, innovative pre-primary education that is adapted to rural communities’ needs. The educational programs are specifically designed for classrooms lacking access to traditional teaching materials and with little to no support from the government. The curriculum is culturally relevant, designed to ensure success for indigenous, Mayan children with no previous exposure to classroom learning. The teaching is bilingual, integrating local dialects and the Spanish language to prepare students for success in the first grade, which is only taught in Spanish.
Harnessing Technology: In the absence of traditional school materials, facilitators are equipped with a tablet and portable Bluetooth speaker to use in the classroom. The program materials are housed on the tablets and the speaker is used to play audio lessons for the class each day.
Youth Facilitator Training: Aula Mágica’s partner communities have a shortage of preschool teachers. To address this challenge, Aula Mágica identifies local youth (typically between 16-24 years old) in rural communities who are bilingual and possess leadership potential, a spirit for community development and a passion for working with children. They receive intensive introductory training before they set off to work in their own communities using the Aula Mágica guided curriculum. Throughout the year they receive continuous mentorship and support and at least one in-person training with the other facilitators; this support empowers them to be successful not only in the classroom, but in other areas of their lives as well. The Youth Facilitators also receive a monthly stipend, which many apply towards additional educational and professional goals.
Adequate Nutrition: To boost the academic program’s attendance and make a larger impact on the health of the students, Aula Mágica provides a daily, nutritious snack, and Atole, a maize-based drink native to Central America, for all students.
WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP
GoPhil and Aula Mágica began partnering in 2017. Ever since, the GoPhil Community has supported many enhancements and expansions to Aula Mágica’s work by providing the following:
- Salary support for administration staff, ensuring the program can run efficiently;
- Support for direct trips to the rural communities, so that the administration staff can supervise and mentor the youth facilitators and ensure proper program functioning;
- Funds for a professional consultant to create a database to house statistics and evaluations from the program, and to train a team member to use and maintain it;
- Funds to help train Mágica staff on how to most effectively support children in their program with disabilities;
- Stipend and administration support for a skilled nurse to run nutritional tests (anthropometric and hemoglobin evaluations) twice a year for 360 rural children.
WHAT MAKES AULA MÁGICA UNIQUE?
Many organizations in Guatemala focus on increasing access to primary and secondary education, but very few include pre-primary education, especially in rural areas. Aula Mágica’s focus on pre-primary education addresses the problem at the root cause and prepares children to not only attend school, but stay in school and succeed once they reach the primary level.
Furthermore, Aula Mágica’s innovative mobilization of youth facilitators expands their impact to another demographic – young adults – building their confidence, providing them with professional experience, preparing them for a successful future and instilling in them a desire to give back to their own communities and country.
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