Friday, February 27, 2009

24 Important Gathering Today

I was once again reminded of the great spirits at work in this difficult District in a meeting today where many important institutions of the city were gathered. I was impressed to know about the foundation Give to Colombia ( where an important contact might result in great future cooperation. I will write more about all of this shortly. For now let me post a video of a typical school visit from the field work.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

23 Large Public Schools

Day 15 (28)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
Large public (government) schools were easily distinguished from the large private ones. Even though the public ones usually have larger spaces available, such as playground, few spaces facilitating studies were found. Libraries were often closed or under construction leaving the children with a desire to do homework etc .during breaks forced to use the floor as working area.

Note: we use the term public school when referring to government owned schools. "Public" as "accessible to the public" would be more correctly connected to the private schools, as they are more spread out and numerous, with more seats available (and affordable) for the children without forcing them to cross dangerous neighborhoods just to get to school.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

22 Some Shortage

Day 12 (6)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
Chemical labs or workshop spaces were also asked for in our study and although this is a relatively nice one it certainly lacks some more material. Creativity however has great space to flourish in these areas where activities are carried out as much as possible.

21 One Cooking Lady

Day 13 (14)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
The cooking lady preparing the school lunch - alone and in a very simple kind of kitchen. What matters the most though is that some small bellies are made very happy and satisfied every day in this little school.

20 Great Passion

Day 12 (8)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
What truly makes small private initiatives grow into great schools serving many children is the passion of special individuals who take on the responsibility and go entrepreneurial. This woman, principal of the school, is a typical example of the many success stories we encountered.

19 Great Interest - Great Support

Day 11 (25)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
Many were the interesting faces that followed our every move as we talked to the teachers about our work. Here accompanied also by Adela, a great spirit and also fundamental for our success in visiting as many schools as we did.

18 Amazed

Day 12 (37)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
My tall companion Patrik had many young eyes turning upwards with amazement as we got to know the children.

17 Beautiful Encounters

Day 12 (35)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
A small girl in a small school leaving a great impression with only a quick look into the camera.

Monday, February 23, 2009

16 Great Gerardo

Day 11 (33)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
Gerardo as much as Dora deserves great attention and greatest of thanks for his marvelous work in accompanying and leading us from school to school. His friendly and charming manners opens up doors in many places.

Only months after our field work he initiated his own foundation and has at several occasions asked me to give him contact information to any organization I might know about that could help funding his initiatives. I so wish this blog could be a start towards continued cooperation with and success for our Great Gerardo.

15 A Tough Area

Day 7 (29)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
The view from a roof of a school that after a few years have managed to build a wall around it as isolation from a violent area almost in ruins.

Just today (not counting the fact it's past midnight) I was called from the University where I wish to get connected to facilitate continued research (together with Pauline Dixon from Newcastle who actually has a bid proposed for an investigation including a project under me on Aguablanca and talented children in slums. The phone call today was from the Foundation of the University that wanted my confirmation for a reunion in the neighborhood Poblado II this Friday. The topic is on how to reintegrate complicated and extremely violent children into the community as a part of a civilized society. Formal education has not really worked too well around there and the Foundation is having an interesting project working since 23 years with positive results.

The model at the moment is a very informal such where a group of 60 youths are trained to be "maestro leaders" and as such lead work shops with the 300 children included in the program. A kind of a coaching program that has very appealing aspects to it that are worth elaborating.

Together with my neighbor and educator friend Rodrigo and thanks to Pauline and Prof Sugata Mitra, we're working on an idea of including the "whole in the wall" model into this environment. Hopefully we can achieve the attention needed to fund the idea. At the moment the University Foundation has a bid on a major project consisting of a recreational park, which with a properly described educational element added might receive a large financial contribution from the European Union. The funding is looking for a project for children in areas of conflict. This can definitely be found here.

14 Some Impressive Schools

Day 6 (29)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
Once on the inside, schools that from outside were hardly visible, could be immense, with relatively much space and many rooms. This one had a quite impressive computer lab and a second floor (from where the picture is taken) where a small soccer field was being build.

13 100 pesos too much

Day 15 (91)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
A very cute but sad picture. As it turned out, this little girl was waiting for her mother to come and pick her up, a couple of hours late at the time of the picture. It's two o'clock and the girl has still not had lunch after having been in the school since early morning. 100 pesos, around 3 cents of a Euro, had been needed but unfortunately her mother had not left her with anything. So here she was sitting alone on the stairs, waiting.

12 Mothers and Families

Day 15 (87)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
In general, more profoundly studied by James Tooley and Pauline Dixon, any parent wants their children to educate themselves and do anything they can to put their children in as good schools as they possibly can. When the schools are private, the parents have great indirect influence in the teachers' work. As the private school teachers are hired by the school owner, bad work leads to replacement by a more dedicated teacher. In government schools on the other hand, there is no direct link between teachers' work dedication and their risk of being replaced, since parents non-payment lead to little incentive to question the quality of the education.

Here, met by three mothers in "La Florida", where only one school could be found, private and in great condition opposed to what one would believe. Thanks to a Dutch organization the school could be built. Minor fees are charged and for school lunch only 100 Colombian pesos (almost 3 cents of a Euro) - even this too much at times. See following post with me sitting in the school stairs next to a small girl.

11 Small Spaces - Dedicated Pupils

Day 11 (12)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
Not only are the spaces incredibly small but with many parts of the schools still being built a general impression many times is the one of having arrived to a construction site. Several class rooms lack both electric light and ventilation. With walls as the one on the picture the pupils definitely lack color in their educational environment.

10 Libraries

Day 16 (4)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
Although not at all very fancy or even very updated, the small libraries in the private schools have more book meters per child (a very useful measurement my Thesis Partner Patrik came up with). As one of many material inputs this is a key indicator of the pupils facility to learn, as book are usually very expensive for the poor families to purchase.

09 Material Input and Class Size

Day 16 (6)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
Of the key indicators studied and assumed as important for the educational outputs (that I hope to be able to evaluate during this year to complete the work of the Master's Thesis) were the material inputs of the schools. Here data on inputs such as blackboards, desks and chairs, electric light, drinking water, separate toilets for boys and girls, library, computers, audio equipment and access to playground were gathered. Although the results were mixed, a conclusion was that the large government schools had better access to playgrounds and toilets, but the private ones better access to library and computers. Concerning blackboards and desks and chairs, almost all schools visited had full availability.

Class size was another key factor studied. The picture shows a small private school with relatively few pupils in the class. This image was the same for most private schools that work with less physical resources but with more teachers available for the pupils. It's thus easy to already with this information speculate in the higher degree of dedication to the pupils in private schools and with this information continue to arguing in favor of more attention to these in stead of all kinds of aid to government school bureaucracy.

08 Primary but also Preschool

Day 7 (10)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
Our objective was to focus on Primary School, and especially observe the conditions facing the 4th grade pupils, but most schools are initiated with Preschool until they have earned enough to start the 1st grade and onwards. Most schools therefore also had the 3 preschool grades attended for which of course was very amusing to see.

Necessary to say is that public (government) preschools are basically non-existing in entire Cali. Of the 130 schools completely surveyed and observed, only 19 were government schools, providing education for only 35 % of the poor children in the District. Additionally, their large size doesn't help their provision of quality education much as the number of children per teacher is too high and the teachers with safe (government) salaries less dedicated than their private school colleagues.

07 Visiting the Children

Day 16 (36)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
Even more rewarding was of course seeing all the wonderful children, receiving us with their big smiles, amazed about seeing a couple foreigners for the first time in their lives.

Having set out the investigation as a part of an interesting piece of work for our Master's Thesis, which we both were and still are very passionate about, the actual reality we're touching with the field work is indescribable, touching on so many levels and to an extent that made me, Joni, define a big part of my professional desires for my future.

Now, a year and a half later, I'm finally reaching the availabilities to not just continuing the academical research but more importantly to really being able to make a difference, although for only a tiny fraction of the children in need on the short run, but by developing a practical-academical model that really helps the children develop their potential and find aspirations in life great things can be achieved. I'm not only blindly believing in that, but actually feel that I've found the intellectual and practical connections needed to come a long way during a visible amount of time.

06 Meeting with the Principals

Day 6 (14)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
Meeting principals and head teachers was most rewarding as we could observe and hear about their dedicated work to the children. Many of the principals are naturally mothers to the children in the District with a great sense of responsibility in the community and thus with great enthusiasm and passion create these small schools which they have to fight hard for to get recognition from the State, something that is questionable if they really should need.

05 Planning and Mapping

Day 7 (2)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
Planning and mapping the routes were a key part in the execution of the entire field work. Having got official information of addresses to all registered schools in the district Aguablanca and its 3 communities, 13, 14 and 15, together with maps, the daily routine consisted in planning which schools to visit depending on their location and our access and escort there.

In the background - my hammock, lent to me by my house mate Ivan.

04 Corporación Juan Bosco

Day 13 (43)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
At the head office of the NGO whose people were key in the success of our data gathering.

From left to right: me (Joni), Gerardo (our second guide and escort in community 14 - amazing person and friend), Dora (in the front - another amazing person who got robbed twice in one weekend and a year later sadly lost a child), Angela (psychologist working with disarmed guerrilla youths) and Patrik (my Master's Thesis Partner and intellectual inspiration during the entire Thesis work).

03 Dora - our first Guide

Day 9 (6)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
For the field work, the idea was to recruit university students to carry out the school visits for us, since Aguablanca is a very complicated district to work in. At least that was what we had been told and following the advice from James Tooley and Pauline Dixon, doing all the work ourselves would have been very time consuming. And so it was, as it turned out, as we were lucky enough to find Dora and her NGO, Corporación Juan Bosco, who started accompanying us to some initial schools, while we were still in the plan to visit her university where she studied pupular education to recruit some of her fellow students. Dora and her colleagues from Juan Bosco were such good escorts, knowing all the corners of all the communities and knowing how to move around them without stepping on anyone's toes, that we in the end managed to personally work the entire District with their help only. This of course incurred very long days but ensured our entire data to be coherently gathered and safe from any other errors than our own.

How we found Dora:
  • Informal contact Karol, who presented me to:
  • her teacher Fernando Urrea, who we had mailed from Sweden long ago because of his publications of the ethical situation in Aguablanca and who we finally could meet in his house to present our mission, a meeting in which he called and presented us as his friends from Stockholm to a "black community leader":
  • Don Jamie Perrea, who very interested met us and took us to his friend:
  • William Rodriguez, professor at the Valle University and teacher of:
  • Dora's, who he recommended to us as our first guide.
On the picture we're in the Youth House of community 15, preparing to set out for our 9th day of school visits.

02 ReCapturing the Field Work

Day 15 (86)
Originally uploaded by unitedwinds
Too many exciting events have occurred since the field work for it not to be presented thoroughly for the public. And even more exciting events are likely to take place this year requiring a complete recapturing of the field work, if not for anyone else, at least for me to be able to present the results of the Master's Thesis for the University here in Cali and 25 of its investigating teachers. Thanks to my neighbor and friend Rodrigo, this is planned for next Friday.

Just days ago my Thesis Partner Patrik updated me on his achievements back in Stockholm with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida, and their interest in finally follow-up on the results that their funding helped finding.

On this picture, Patrik (the tall one) and me in one of the poorest areas of the district investigated, Aguablanca in Cali, Colombia.