Thursday, April 9, 2009

25 Important Arrival - Important Presentation

Crossing the Atlantic twice within 3 weeks might be something you'd do either for business or for pleasure. Embarrassingly enough I had to do it for studies, having had a left-behind exam spooking since the autumn of 2002 that I finally had to deal with, gratefully enough cashing out two Master's Degrees as a result.

Now, back in Cali since 2 weeks, things are seeming to turn around quite well. Michael has arrived, Dr. Pauline Dixon's student who seems very keen on playing a role in the research and improvement of Colombian education. His thesis is about education climate in private and public schools, and most likely from next week he'll start visiting Aguablanca and some of the schools that my thesis surveyed. I'm most happy to have been able to receive him here and having spent almost a week and a half already as his host I've been able to confirm my first very positive impressions of his interest and dedication that he showed in Newcastle, where my thesis partner Patrik and I were invited by Pauline to present some of our thesis results. That was on October 6, 2008, so merely 6 months later our work in Aguablanca continues. Still, only academically, but thanks to this, soon also practically I hope.

Last Friday, April 3, I had a presentation of my Master's thesis in the Autónoma University in front of a group of around 12 local researchers + Michael and my good neighbour Rodrigo. It went quite well, considering my first attempt in giving a semi-structured, semi-formal, slightly Colombian-improvisation-style-kind-of presentation in Spanish. The topic Private Schools in the Slums (showing better results than the public ones) in itself being highly controversial, the interest from the researcher audience was very high with some tough questions but easy crowd understanding the picture completely after having explained a few of the thesis' important figures. As Michael said, it was a very significant moment, especially for us, to have had the topic exposed in this setting for the first time. Very significant that Michael got to be there to represent his work and continue the thoughts with Rodrigo and some of the key players at the University of inviting Pauline, James Tooley and also Michael's mentor Sugata Mitra to Colombia one day. Pauline seems very anxious to get things going here and we're feeling very enthusiastic about having her behind us. Can't wait to get news about her bidding process about realizing her next big project about talented children from the slums in Colombia. First things first though, and assisting Michael in finding his way trough his field study is on the top of my agenda for the weeks to come.

A first step is to introduce Michael to the principals of the schools he'll study. First meeting will be with one of the heads of education in Aguablanca to get authorization to realize his work.

Similarly, my field study required this authorization to easily get to visit all principals without problems. They were all happy to assist, showing great dedication to their work with the children. Of course, many were hoping to establish good connections someone linked to an international organization that might result in investment in the shools. Something clearly needed is investment in material inputs for the children, higher salaries to the dedicated private school teachers and in general more attention to the desperate and violent kids who make life so sad and difficult for the majority of hard working poor people.

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