Education in Ecuador in the time of COVID-19
The pandemic is having a profound impact on the education in Ecuador. Public schools in Ecuador closed in March 2020 and have remained closed to this day. School teachers have been trying to provide virtual education, but it has proven challenging. Many students do not have access to internet and therefore can’t attend classes. For those who are able to attend, classes are often of very limited use.
For example, an elementary school teacher provides only a one-hour class to its students each day. Out of that one hour, much time is spent taking attendance, disciplining kids that are misbehaving and giving kids their homework for the day, that there is very little time to do any actual teaching. As a result, many parents have stopped forcing their kids to attend the virtual classes and fully expect that they will have to retake the year once the pandemic is over.
For kids that are continuing, the help that they can get outside of classes is one of the determining factors in how much they will actually learn this year and how behind they will be when in-person classes will resume. As a result, this pandemic will accentuate the struggle of many kids for years to come.
How Uno a Uno has been helping
Uno a Uno stopped its in-person classes in March 2020. With so many kids struggling with homework, the tutoring program has been the main focus in this past year. From April to June, the help was limited to what could be done virtually. Our teachers used WhatsApp and other applications to reach out to our students and provide explanations to supplement what their school teacher was providing in their minimalistic virtual classes.
In July 2020, we were allowed to re-open our doors with appropriate safety measures in place: mandatory masks, limited number of students to allow for physical distancing, daily temperature checks for everyone entering, and very frequent handwashing.
Since then, we have focused on helping in the following ways:
- Giving them access to a computer and internet so they can attend their virtual public school classes;
- Providing them with the formal education and necessary learning (mostly in the subjects of Spanish and Mathematics) that they are currently not receiving virtually by their public school teachers;
- Assisting them with their homework.
Given the restrictions in the number of students, we can only help approximately 25 students per week, which is roughly half of the students who were enrolled in our tutoring program before the pandemic. A bigger space would be necessary to accommodate more students. This is very unfortunate since many parents are turning to us for support given that their kids need help more than ever and that they are not in a position to help them with school work themselves.
Regarding English classes, we currently have two classes that are happening virtually with our more advanced and older students, for a total of approximately 15 students. Given the greater need for tutoring and homework help and the difficulty of having younger students attend virtual classes, we have decided to pause our kids’ English classes for the time being. However, we are planning on re-starting in-person adult classes shortly with appropriate safety measures in place.
As an added challenge, we have had to cut staff salaries by 25% as a result of lack of funding. Although the staff was very thankful that they could all keep their jobs in the midst of rampant unemployment in the country, the reduction in wages were felt deeply.
We expect the current situation to persist for a number of
months in 2021, until a vaccine is approved and widely distributed within the country. We look forward to returning to some type of normalcy later in 2021 if all goes well. In the meantime, we thank you very much for your support and ask that you consider making a donation if you have the means to support our educational work in Ecuador.
Thank you from all of us at Uno a Uno!