A guide explains the methodology and results of an initiative in Guatemala to improve the learning and quality of life of vulnerable children

On October 18th, the practical guide for the project “Improving the academic performance and quality of life of vulnerable children in Guatemala: Comprehensive programme of cognitive and emotional stimulation, development of school gardens and strengthening distance learning in the face of the COVID-19 challenge” was presented at the headquarters of the Andalusian Agency for International Development Cooperation (AACID). The initiative has been implemented by Fundación ETEA – Development Institute of Universidad Loyola in collaboration with Fe y Alegría Guatemala, with funding from AACID.

Moment of the presentation ceremony at the AACID headquarters

The event was inaugurated Olga Pozo,Head of the Ibero-American Cooperation Unit at AACID, Karen Avendaño, Deputy Director General of Fe y Alegría Guatemala, and Michela Accerenzi, Regional Coordinator of Fundación ETEA. Researchers from Universidad Loyola, Joaquín Ibáñez, Pablo Rodríguez and José María Barroso, as well as Ana Lucía Linares, Coordinator for the Fe y Alegría Guatemala project, and Edilson Chun, Director of multigrade schools in Chiquimula, also spoke.

Presentation ceremony held at the Cordoba Provincial Council

The project’s experience has also been shared in schools, such as SAFA Blanca Paloma (Seville) and IES Guadalquivir (Cordoba). Also, on the occasion of World Food Day, the practical guide was presented on 16 October at an event held at the Cordoba Provincial Council, which was attended by the delegate for Equality, Development Cooperation, Consumer Affairs and Citizen Participation of the Cordoba Provincial Council, Auxiliadora Moreno.

Technology in learning processes

The use of virtual reality technologies has proved to be a great resource to complement traditional cognitive development techniques, achieving important advances in reading comprehension and learning processes in general.

According to Karen Avendaño, “stimulation implemented through interactive games and reading at specific and systematic times favours the development and strengthening of cognitive functions and emotional management”. In addition, “the use of electronic devices as a pedagogical tool in schools promotes technological education and shortens the digital divide that is present in these sectors,” adds Avendaño.

The role of the school garden as a learning tool

Ana Lucía Linares pointed out that “school gardens are a pedagogical tool that fosters meaningful learning, social interaction, and environmental stewardship,” emphasizing that “identifying nutritional deficiencies in educational communities was crucial for the creation of school gardens and crops.”

The production of gardens in schools goes beyond teaching agriculture, promoting healthy eating, or improving student nutrition. School gardens provide an opportunity for community involvement, engaging teachers, students, and families. They serve to instill values such as ecology, sustainable agriculture, and teamwork.

Innovation, an essential factor in school teaching processes

The updating and training of the teaching staff in active teaching methodologies – which work on gamification, motivation and participation – guarantee better results in the education of students, helping them to become the protagonists of their own learning.

Edilson Chun highlighted the relevance of “prioritising comprehensive, relevant and continuous training spaces for teachers to strengthen their daily work”. In addition, “using the train-the-trainer replication method is a strategy that allows all teachers in the school to learn about and apply different strategies for teaching their subjects,” he said.

What is the Purpose of This Guide?

This guide document is the result of coordinated work among various institutions operating in areas such as education, psychology, and international development cooperation. The information on diagnosis, methodology, and the implementation of this work experience with vulnerable children, through the educational project of schools, constitutes a tool for social transformation and valuable learning to be shared with professionals and stakeholders in the Andalusian and national international cooperation field.

International development cooperation must strengthen its alliance with academic research through universities and civil society organizations to continue innovating and increasing effectiveness and impact in development interventions.