From the Field-Araruna, Brazil
by Dyci Manns, Model26
It doesn't take a meteorologist to see that Araruna is located in one of the driest regions in Brazil, and it doesn't take an economist to see that it is also in one of the poorest. In a city of roughly 20,000, the infrastructure is limited, investment is nonexistent, and the unemployment rate is extremely high.
Sascha Fink from Arme Menschen (AM) reached out to me several months ago to discuss a partnership with MODEL26. AM, locally known as AFINK, has spent the last seven years developing and maintaining water, food, housing, and social projects that benefit the local community within the main part of the city, as well as small communities living outside of the city in more rural, drier areas of the region.
Sascha, a German doctor based in Munich, like myself, and many of the other directors we work with, has a full-time job and runs AM as a volunteer. Between managing the finances, fundraising, marketing, and every other aspect of the organization, he has no time to coordinate volunteers or recruit a qualified volunteer to live in Araruna and develop and manage the education programs he wants to implement. Before agreeing that MODEL26 would manage the volunteer recruitment and education program development for AM, I came to Araruna to see the current projects first-hand. I spent several days here meeting the local staff, some paid and others working as volunteers, as well as meeting the beneficiaries of some of the local projects. What I've seen has both impressed me and reminded me how much further we have to go with the Millennium Development Goals.
Sascha and his team have managed to create a very efficient system of program planning and design, implementation, and evaluation. Sascha has also made it a priority to finance the local projects in order to ensure their sustainability, and not to simply fundraise for them. Volunteer housing is safe and centrally located, and the local Brazilian staff is outstanding and extremely helpful. While the communities have certainly benefitted from current projects, the need for an education program is apparent.
The education situation here is a prime example of some of the educational problems communities like Araruna face and some of the issues that have been brought to the table at the Global Campaign for Education-US Chapter. In the past, a lot of focus has been placed on building schools and providing greater access to education facilities for children that live in rural areas. Several schools have been built further outside of the city, and the local government now provides transportation for students that have to commute long distances. However, Araruna, like many other similar communities, now faces different problems, making achieving a quality education virtually impossible.
1. An alarmingly low adult literacy rate.
2. Schools that are sometimes closed due to a lack of running water.
3. Short school days where students spend four hours per day at school and the rest of their time caring for their younger siblings, or, in extreme cases, engaging in prostitution and/or drug use.
4. A corrupt teacher selection process where the mayor of the city often hand-picks teachers for personal or political reasons, regardless of their teaching qualifications, or lack thereof in most cases.
5. Low access to higher education due to poor preparation for entrance exams, distance, or finances.
While the education situation in Araruna has indeed progressed in the last decade, the current issues facing the community more than adequately show us in which direction we must go post-2015 if we are to truly achieve equity and equality in education.
Dyci Manns is the Executive Director and founder of MODEL26, a nonprofit organization that works with organizations to provide teacher training and professional development to foreign teachers, as well as adult literacy programs in areas with high poverty.