31 Arts Preventing Violence

One remarkable arts teacher approached us at leaving one of the public schools. The coordinator who had seemed so helpful at the first visit turned out to be a disappointment. We had returned to the school to pick up a bunch of questionnaires that he had promised to have ready for us already the previous week (when he very kindly had helped introducing us to all the visiting parents). He had asked me to call him back around two today but instead we showed up unannounced, which probably disturbed him. He asked us to personally pass by all the class rooms and ask the teachers for the questionnaires since he hadn't received but two and the one he was supposed to fill out was also elsewhere.

Leaving pretty much empty handed the arts teacher approached us and asked what our visit was about wondering why he hadn't received a questionnaire. Hearing that the coordinator and even the principal as well as the afternoon teachers (who had received the questionnaire) were pretty much ignoring and trying to paint a beautiful picture of the school covering its many problems concerning drugs and weapons used among the children, we realized his views would be of great importance. We handed over a few questionnaires for him and his colleagues working in the morning, thus giving a more dispersed picture of the opinions of the school.

The remarkable thing about this teacher has to do with his amazing work with the children, teaching them most of all real painting techniques that has been the rescue for many of the complicated kids. According to this teacher, learning to paint for real is possible already at a young age as long as you get the tools to do it. Michael and I got to see the amazing results in a presentation the teacher had held a few weeks ago. Starting with no resources he had managed to receive enough funding to create the largest parade project the city of Cali has ever seen. With hundreds of children having made their own native-American-inspired costumes an impressive act followed as the children, accompanied by some teachers, paraded the city to native-American rhythms.

Even more impressive was to see how some kids had been able to finance their university studies by selling their own paintings thanks to the techniques taught by the arts teacher. Especially two testimonies were presented, one with a kid now owning two successful companies and another one with a soon to be medical doctor, having grown up as a poor child in Aguablanca to having received the skills to paint professionally.

This and similar work has already won several national art competitions and the dream is to receive enough funding to do this full-time for more children to "save" their future and even give them the opportunity to do presentations internationally.

(http://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/m.j.burgess1 13/05/09 Reality Check)