Paper and pencil, slate and chalk, parchment and quill. Tools to write with-- an archetypal part of education over the centuries. It’s so obvious, that their presence seems implied. Yet, for teachers in rural El Salvador, these fundamental tools are a luxury. Classrooms are not stocked with basic supplies like paper and pencils. Teachers do not have resources to offer what students need for minimal learning, much less optimal educational efforts.
Imagine working tirelessly each day in a rural school, and only having one pen. Last summer, Betsy Johnson met with a principal that had exactly that. One pen. Think about the effort you’d need to put toward making sure to keep up with it, not to set it down and leave it somewhere. This is an obviously American/affluent way to conceive the burden of this need. We have pens coming out of our proverbial ears! Pens that advertise medicines, pens that have the particular make up that we prefer-- rollerball, smooth gel, ball point, etc, pens that don’t bleed through paper yet have the precise width and saturation of line that we consider the best. We really can’t understand having just one pen. But despite that, we CAN help. We can put pens and pencils in the hands of teachers and students.
This is a daily reality for most of the teachers and students we have encountered, and it’s a complicated reality in light of our goal to train and equip local teachers. How can we equip teachers unto better education if they aren’t equipped to have their students all write something down at one time, because there are not enough pencils? It’s not possible to meet our “big picture” goals if we neglect the fundamental need for classroom supplies.
This week, several of our development workers hosted a teacher’s seminar in El Salvador. It was the 3rd gathering of teachers that we have hosted this year. We responded to their need for supplies by distributing over 40 bags overflowing with pencils, pens, staplers, tape dispensers, folders, paper, and much more. We also surveyed teachers and administrators about their primary needs as teachers, taught a first aid lesson on hydration and sanitation, introduced basic time management skills, and offered teacher training times that addressed the very real challenges that teachers face each day.
We have goals to provide extensive teacher support and development, to address the needs teachers and administrators have, to empower teachers to address real life issues with relevant content. We aim to “take the lid off” their concept of education and shift the educational paradigms that are currently in place. And we will continue to give the students adequate supplies. We will give them pencils.
Would you consider providing a school supply bag to one of the teachers that we work with?