Written by: Stéphanie Keller-Busque
8am, Enmanuel Mongalo Primary School in Oscar Gamez, Estelí. On the morning of October 18, grade 5 students gather in their school’s library and hover at the edges of their seats as they wait to begin their next FUNARTE workshop. Today, however, is a unique opportunity for these students; the workshop is being co-facilitated by representatives of Proniño and the students will each be painting or drawing their concepts of Mi sueño por una mayor educación, “My dream for a greater education.” Of the pieces created, 12 of the students’ images will be selected for a 2014 calendar Proniño sends to individuals, families, and businesses all across Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina and from Chile to Venezuela.
Students at Enmanuel Mongalo Primary School are some of the 211,000 children from 13 different Latin American countries receiving the support of Proniño, an organization founded by Fundación Telefónica as part of their initiative to reduce rates of child labour in Latin America. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), there are 13 million children in child labour in Latin America and the Carribbean (accounting for 8.8 percent of the children in child labour across the world), and a majority of these children are subjected to hazardous work (primarily in agriculture, services, and industry, and most often in the informal economy).
Through combined efforts in social responsibility with local partner organizations, Proniño seeks to see higher levels of students completing primary school and continuing their studies throughout secondary school and up to university through the strengthening of partnerships between schools and their local social or community organizations such as FUNARTE, the improvement of educational materials brought to students and teachers, and economic and technological assistance to schools. The organization has given students at Enmanuel Mongalo backpacks, shirts, books, and various other school materials and the school facilities have received many major improvements, including a new technology centre. As you enter the school, a large sign with Fundación Telefónica’s campaign informs the student body and visitors of their mission; – niños trabajando, + niños estudiando, “Fewer children working, More children studying.”
Proniño reached out to our FUNARTE team to assist them with this activity in order to make it a unique experience for children to creatively express how hope their education will shape their futures. Of the 28 students who participated in the activity, each one of them told me that they wanted to stay in school in order to be able to reach their dreams for their future careers. I was touched to see that quite literally half of the students wanted to grow up to be doctors—many shared stories of when they were sick as young children (or of a family member becoming ill) and how they looked up to the doctors who had helped them and their families in those times. Two students wanted to be poets and drew themselves surrounded by books. One girl drew herself as a designer contemplating a vest she had created, hung around a mannequin. A boy explained to me that he wanted to be a pilot when he grew up. When I asked him, “Where will you go to first once you become a pilot?” he looked at me as if I had asked the silliest question he had ever heard. “In the plane!” he told me. “Alright, but which place would you fly to if you could go anywhere in the world?” I followed. “Well, I don’t know,” he said. “I just want to be in a plane.” By the time he was done drawing and painting (he managed to use paint, markers, pastels and pencil crayons), the piece he created was full of colours and images of planes taking off, flying, and taxing on the ground—it really was like seeing someone’s dream on paper.
Estelí’s local team at Canal 2, one of Nicaragua’s television channels, arrived at the event to interview activity participants as well as FUNARTE and Proniño facilitators. Teachers wandered in and out of the library throughout the morning to get a glimpse at the activity, and it was plain to see that they all showed great pride in the opportunity to share their students’ achievements not only with the rest of Estelí but with all of Latin America once the Fundación Telefónica calendar will be published. They commented on their students’ originality in their pieces and how impressed they were that children who normally have disruptive tendencies in the classrooms got very concentrated while drawing and painting. At the end of the day, our FUNARTE team sat down with Proniño to choose which pieces would appear in the calendar, finished cleaning up the art materials, and headed back to the office. All in all, a very successful morning!
It was incredible to collaborate with another Latin American organization to inspire people all across Latin America to rise up and support children’s right to education. FUNARTE’s use of art to allow girls and boys to creatively communicate the importance of this right could not be more effective, and I feel incredibly grateful to be a part of their work. Whether while assisting an artistic activity, designing a workshop, painting a mural, preparing an event, visiting a school, or meeting educators from different communities, I am constantly presented with new ideas to consider, new challenges to turn into opportunities, and new moments that inspire me to keep advancing children’s rights and sharing educational strategies to the educators that accompany them. Stories and photos of (the many) recent advancements in my team’s two projects, Arte y Cambio and Colores Primarios II, are also on their way. Until then, ¡nos vemos!