Sunday, May 31, 2009

36 Parents' Meeting at Richard Bach

Michael, being a step ahead of me writes:

"Friday morning and were back in Poblado2 for a parents meeting at Colegio Richard Bach. The director Diana greeted us warmly and introduced us to the parents whilst promoting the aims of educational research. We got an excellent return of nearly 30 parental and 6 teacher completions although ironically, we will have to return later to pick up Diana's own response."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

35 Liceo los Triunfos

Another school with a most helpful principal is the Liceo los Triunfos, where we had another successful meeting with parents. Michael gives an insightful account:

"Friday once again and Joni and myself are in Poblado1 for a parents meeting at a small, private primary school; Los Triunfos. We arrived on schedule at 8.00am however the meeting was delayed until 9.30 so we made ourselves comfortable in the cafeteria opposite and watched the world go by or more accurately, watched the world watching us. Whilst neither the Director of Studies nor the teachers have completely their own questionnaires in the period since our last visit, that didnt stop them being extremely helpful and supportive. Having introduced the subject matter, the Director of Studies asked a couple of questions, promoted the role of educational research and encouraged the parents to get involved themselves. We collected a grand total of 17 questionnaires from Los Triunfos which is a very good return for a relatively small institution. As we were preparing to leave we got chatting to one of the mothers about the significance and causes of violence in Aguablanca and its relationship to the education system. She indicated that public schools are at a significant disadvantage, their size tends to attract the attention of the gangs leading to increased problems of drug trafficking and violence. In addition our interviewee believed that the public institutions didn't give enough homework, consequently the children didnt have enough to occupy themselves and out of boredom would go looking for trouble. Her reasoning may or may not provide an accurate reflection of reality but parental concern for security in local schools is undeniable."

34 English Class at Richard Bach

On our first visit to Richard Bach we were invited to the canteen/playground for a snack. At once a crowd of kids approached and started asking the usual questions where we were from etc. Michael improvised a quick English class for the kids while I chatted with another groups of kids trying to catch the moment in a couple of pictures. Great to see is that Pauline Dixon is showing this very same picture on her university's homepage at for anyone interested in a Masters in Education and Development.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

33 Sustainable Formation

Strolling around in Aguablanca, or rather walking from a bakery to a school we were about to visit, I ran into Maicol, one of the very helpful guys who had accompanied me and Patrik on several occasions (and thus mentioned on our thesis' acknowledgment page, which I could show him). He's one of the kids with a tough background now enjoying life as a painter and break dancer working with formation processes of kids with a present similar to his past for the CorporaciĆ³n Juan Bosco (the Corporation).

I presented him to Michael and, as I copied his cell phone number, showed him the difference in spelling of their otherwise equal name. Yes, Maicol is a common Colombian spelling of Michael. I promised to give him a ring before Michael leaves (on June 4) with the hopes of having a small reunion with the people who helped me with my thesis and present them to Michael for future reference.

On the picture we have from left to right, Adela, who in an equal fashion as Dora and Gerardo was a rock and great-humoured spirit during my visits to schools with Patrik. On my other side is Jennifer, a seemingly timid young woman with great aspirations of one day actually being the director of the Corporation. She's also a result of great formation by the people at the Corporation. Next to her is Leidy, who also accompanied us once and finally of course we have my thesis partner Patrik.

Friday, May 15, 2009

32 Beautiful Picture - Beautiful Book

My picture of the month (the 5th in the slideshow):

I would like to recommend a book by quoting a piece of news from the EG West Center's website that Dr Pauline Dixon is keeping up to date, to my very dedicated interest.

"James Tooley's new book "The Beautiful Tree" was launched at CATO, Washington DC in April. The book is a personal account of his journey and research looking at education for the poor around the world. According to Publishers Weekly the book is "Surprising...engaging...a moving account of how poor parents struggle against great odds to provide a rich educational experience to their children." —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. James also appeared on ABC News and gave several interviews on the East Coast. James is also this year's speaker at the IEA for the Hayek Memorial Lecture on 11th June 2009, where he will be signing copies of his book. Extracts from Tooley's book have been published on the Globalist website." (

Having just received a couple of emails from a German publisher of academic research claiming that it "would be especially interested in publishing your [my] dissertation in the form of a printed book", I cannot but feel excited about possibly becoming a published author myself in a near future.

Equally exciting was it to find one of my very own favourite pictures among the plenty of impressive ones on EG West Center's website. If you've read the earlier posts (especially number 27) you might recognise it from the slideshow on this website (same as above):

Thursday, May 14, 2009

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.

( 13/05/09 Reality Check)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

30 Peace Park and Aliance Foundation

With a budget of 400 000 Euros the Fundautonoma foundation - with headquarters just next to the public school Santa Rosa pictured below - is hoping to change things for good around the most violent area in Aguablanca, El Poblado II, a neighbourhood with gangs to blame for the majority of Aguablanca's 56 youths killed the first quarter alone this year. TO BE CONTINUED...