Nukanti Foundation

FOSTERING COMMUNITIES THROUGH YOUTH EMPOWERMENT

Guatica's Schools: A Step Ahead

Charlotte JoyceComment

A few days before moving into Guatica—a small municipality of 16,000 inhabitants nestled in the mountains of Risaralda—the mayor, teachers, students, parents and government directors set up a meeting with Pereira’s Department of Education representatives (available via Skype) and me. About thirty people attended, happy and curious about my arrival. I felt welcomed and supported. It was impressively reassuring, especially since my biggest fear for the program had been lack of support by the local officials and the schools; the meeting was evidence to the contrary.
I moved to Guatica a few days later on Monday, October 1st to work primarily at Maria Reina high school, and spend two afternoons in the neighboring towns of San Clemente and Santa Ana with their professors. I spent the first day meeting Maria Reina’s principal, setting up my schedule, meeting teachers, greeting student classrooms, visiting places around town, and meeting the family where I will be living for the next two months. Luis Pipe Rivas Gomez—better known as “Profe” by his students or “Pipe” by his friends—is not only my school contact and head English teacher, but he is also the head of the home where I am living.
What I have learned thus far is how lucky Guatica is to have Pipe. For example, this English program made it to Guatica largely due to his efforts the past few years. He is always one step ahead, thinking about how he can improve his students’ futures and his school. In recent years he brought English to the younger grades, and the impact—after meeting students from every grade—is obvious. His connections and hard work brought proper resources for the students to improve their English, including winning a grant from the United States’ Embassy for a full computer lab, equipped with English software programs. In addition, Pipe worked with a group of other motivated teachers to bring evaluation tests to Guatica’s schools, introducing them at younger ages each year. Because of the tests, the school has set aside time to prepare curriculum which would properly prepare the students for test-taking. Among this busy schedule—which includes his role as coach for the volleyball teams—he set aside time to integrate English more into the school’s curriculum through an end-of-the-year English Day when the students present projects in English to the rest of the school and community.
Pipe’s impact on the school’s progress is important. As a representative of Nukanti’s English pilot program, I would have little to offer in such a short time if the school was resistant, unequipped, or unmotivated. Because he strives to improve his students’ lives before, during and after high school, I had the opportunity to talk to his graduating classes about the future, their fears and passions, opportunities outside of Guatica, and provide them with words of motivation. And because of the final project, I will be working with the students to learn about countries of the world so they can try to “sell” them to other students and teachers. Through this project, the goal is that the students learn more English, enjoy it in the process, and hopefully find the motivation to visit some of these locations around the world. With Pipe’s help and the school’s support, I am confident these will be a productive two months.

Meeting with government officials in Pereira

Meeting with government officials in Pereira

Classroom visit

Classroom visit