Education – Breaking the Poverty Cycle
by Grettel Mejia
Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
|These photos show children at the kindergarten and after-school centre run by San Cristóbal Corps in Bogotá, Colombia. The children are helped in their education but also have opportunities to have fun in a safe environment.|
TRAIN a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it,’ says Proverbs 22:6 (New International Version). The Salvation Army’s Latin America North Territory has taken this proverb to heart and is doing its own bit to achieve the second Millennium Development Goal.
Education is and will always be a key factor in the success of people from all backgrounds. It provides children with greater opportunities and offers a better perspective on life. Most importantly, it can be the breaking point out of the poverty cycle which affects hundreds of families in Latin America and around the world. A poor person with a good education has the opportunities to escape from poverty in ways that an uneducated person can never hope for. Education is the solution for many social problems and increased education has even been shown to decrease delinquency and violence.
In Latin America, many schools face high withdrawal rates and financial restrictions. This means not all children have the opportunity to access quality education. Governments don’t always have the money – or even the will – to provide education for their whole population. The Salvation Army believes all children are entitled to have equal opportunities even if their parents are not able to afford expensive school fees.
With education being such an important element of development, a great part of the Salvation Army’s developmental efforts must be focused on this area.
The Salvation Army runs several education programmes in Latin America. In Colombia there are after-school centres in Itaguí and Robledo Corps (churches). Day care centres at San Cristóbal and Armenia Corps also provide after-school centres where children can do their homework in a safe environment and with the support of staff who can help them with their learning. Plans are in hand to seek funding to open additional centres in Nuevo Kennedy and Ibague.
Parents collaborate to fund the programmes by providing fees according to their income, while international and local resources, in cash or in kind, are sought in order for the programmes to function fully. Children are introduced to the programmes at a young age when they are like sponges eager to absorb all the knowledge and values.
The Salvation Army’s education programmes aim to provide integrated education, with Christian and moral values taught alongside the academic curriculum requested by the government. Nutrition and vocational development are also important components of the programmes.
Education programmes are not only found in Colombia. There are similar set-ups in Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Dominican Republic and Venezuela which benefit more than 3,000 young people.
The Salvation Army is doing all it can to make children eager to be educated and share their knowledge, not just during their childhood but throughout their whole life. As an African proverb says: ‘Knowledge and love are equal because they are the only things that increase when they are shared.’
|The work at the Salvation Army corps (church) in the San Cristóbal Sur area of Bogotá, Colombia, is typical of many of the education projects in Latin America. The corps is in a poor and deprived area, with many children not completing their education because of financial constraints. The stories of the young people featured here give a vivid picture of how The Salvation Army’s education schemes – and their introduction to faith – have helped them to make better lives for themselves than they would have thought possible.|
I attend the Salvation Army corps (church) in San Cristóbal Sur in Bogotá, Colombia. There is also a student centre here, which was a social work developed by The Salvation Army in our community. San Cristóbal is a low income area which was affected by insecurity and a lack of schools and day care centres. There was often nobody available to help the little ones do their homework because most parents worked during the day.
The student centre helped single moms by providing a place where their children were supported to do their homework and also had meals. Meanwhile, the mothers were able to go to work, knowing their children wouldn’t be wandering the streets but in a very safe place. My brothers, Jason and Miguel, and I were happy to get to that little place after school. Over there we did our homework, had lunch and received support.
I stopped attending the student centre when I was in eighth grade – about 14 years old. Then I stopped going to church too. I went to a party even though I did not know how to dance. The girls at that party introduced me into their world and I liked it. At another party I tried cigarettes and alcohol. My life was going down and as a result of keeping bad company I started to smoke marijuana. I kept sneaking from home to try new drugs and every day I got involved in that world deeper and deeper. This made me fail 10th grade.
At the parties, alcohol and cigarettes were no longer enough and we started using a strong drug called la perica [the parrot]. That was a very odd sensation but it was nice. I met classmates who liked stealing, and they always had money. Meanwhile, at home, my dad Luis had been unemployed for over a year and had no money for our school snacks. I started stealing – I became greedy and I lost any scruples.
When I finished 11th grade I stopped seeing those friends. To some extent I felt free from my burdens but I couldn’t find happiness because my life was filled with loneliness. I knew that something was missing. It took me two years to realise that what was missing in my life was Jesus Christ, who I had learned about at The Salvation Army all those years before.
I am grateful to God because he took me out of the mud. I am thankful to my mom for taking me to the Salvation Army programme when I was just a baby and also to all the members of the church who helped with my education. Today I work in a company in graphic design and painting.
Diana Alexandra Sandoval Rodríguez
When I was four years old my mom took me to a day care centre in the Salvation Army church. I started to attend this and learned to say grace before food and pray for the new day. I spent three years there before starting primary school. I kept going back there after school was over to attend the student centre, where I had lunch and studied with the teachers. My grades were the best!
Since I was 12 I have had a relationship with God and I now take an active part in dance ministry at the corps (church).
I work as an administrative assistant in an Italian restaurant and I am studying at university, taking my fifth semester in Business Administration for Hotels and Tourism.
I am thankful to God because when I was a little girl my parents took me to The Salvation Army.
I went to the Salvation Army day care centre when I was barely two years old. My parents had heard about the place and how well they took care of children, so they decided to register me there so I would receive good education skills in my first years. In the centre I met wonderful people like the teachers Soledad and Lenia. This was a very special time. When I was in primary school, in the ninth grade, I went back to the centre to attend Sunday school.
I like to study hard and I have made a great effort to go to university and start a degree in physics in the Universidad Pedagógica. I have already registered and I have done well in all my interviews. I was encouraged to continue studying in both the day care centre and in church. I have two sisters and they both attended the day care centre too. We all make our mom proud.
Thanks to the Lord for what he has done in our lives.
Jeisson J. Noreña G.
When I was just two years old my mom met a person who was a member of The Salvation Army and a teacher in its day care centre. Her name was Soledad and now she is like my second mother. She is still a teacher in that place and she is a pillar of the church.
I graduated from the kindergarten and started primary school but I kept coming to The Salvation Army – now to the student centre. I had lunch there and I received help with my studies. When I was about to start secondary school I had my first spiritual encounter and soon found myself an active member of the church.
I am grateful because God has used The Salvation Army in my life and my family. I have finished secondary school and now take computer lessons.
Grettel Mejia is Projects Officer in The Salvation Army’s Latin America North Territory