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The Ministry of Education informs the general population that due to the national quarantine in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, announced this afternoon by the President of the Republic, Nayib Bukele, classes and all educational activities are suspended from this moment , for a period of 21 days. Thus began the communiqué, issued on March 11 of this year, in which the closure of schools, colleges and universities was ordered, and it was exhorted to implement the "Educational Continuity Plan".
Nobody imagined that the school year would end with the classrooms closed, much less working virtually, after MINED looked for alternatives for students to receive their classes through guides or other forms of communication, such as WhatsApp and Messenger, among other social networks.
According to a study on rural connectivity in Latin America and the Caribbean, prepared by Microsoft, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), El Salvador is the second country in Latin America and the Caribbean with the most lag in internet connectivity, with a coverage of 45% of its population.
Faced with this reality, the MINED assumes the importance of the right to education for children and young people, strengthening alternatives that guarantee educational continuity through strategies such as Accelerated Education. This allows them to return to formal education at grades appropriate for their age; In other words, it is a flexible and age-appropriate program, executed in a short time, with the aim of giving access to education to underprivileged children and young people, out of school or with excess.
Traditionally, the Accelerated Education program has focused on children and youth who have not been able to take advantage of educational opportunities and on those who have seen their education interrupted due to poverty, marginalization or situations of conflict and crisis. Now, the pandemic is joining, causing many children and young people - for reasons of connectivity or other aspects - do not complete their academic degree.
In 2017, Gloria Zamora enrolled her son Abraham in the fifth grade at Centro Escolar Antonio Najarro, located in Mejicanos, San Salvador. But Abraham was 14 years old and the rest of his classmates were around 11 years old: "I felt uncomfortable because I was older than the other classmates," said the student.
Her young-looking mother acknowledges that she became aware of the Accelerated Education program by the then director, Elizabeth Pleites. "His attitude changed because before he was related to younger children, he was only games and, being in the Accelerated Classroom, Abraham was more serious, he was interested in the classes," said Gloria, who thanked the teachers and the psychologist for their work , since «they were excellent because they gave him all the facilities to continue. Now, I feel happy and proud because, sometimes, one thinks that it will not be achieved, but thank God he has already left the ninth grade.
Abraham was one of the students who attended fifth and sixth grade in the Accelerated Classroom modality. Currently, 17 years old and graduated from ninth grade, the principal Pleites remembers that "Abraham was in fifth grade and the mother said: 'He is already grown up, I want him to advance' (...) he was very quiet with the children of his age, he was withdrawn, he did not feel adapted and, when he was with boys his age, a great change was seen. It was made with young people of his age.
Ivan M. also had changes in his student life. He was another boy with excess, because (at 13 years old) he was in sixth grade and, immediately, his mother agreed to enroll him in Aula Acelerada. «I felt more or less; that is to say, I was discouraged because the other colleagues did not speak to me, "recalled Iván, who like his mother, Mercedes Morán, comments that he was enthusiastic and happy.
"Iván and his older brother studied in the Accelerated Classroom and had stopped studying at the other school, because the gang members forced them to do things, and I had to take them out ... Now I see Iván happy, he likes to study even though he works" , said Mercedes, very proud that her son finished the ninth grade despite the pandemic.
For the director Pleites, Accelerated Education «is a great opportunity for the boys; It is a modality that helps them to be able to advance in grade because, many times, the boys do not perform in the grade they are in because they do not feel comfortable, it makes them very sad, ”he said. At the same time, he exhorted the school authorities that “as principals, we must open opportunities, think about the children, we have to become aware and we must look for those spaces not only with those who are in school, but with those who are on the street ».
Like the Antonio Najarro School Center, the Colonia Sensunapán School Center, in the department of Sonsonate, has the Accelerated Education program and teachers concerned not only with fulfilling one of the rights of Salvadorans (the right to education) , but by seeing a smile on their faces, that motivates them to continue their studies.
Oscar Alberto Contreras - teacher in charge of the Accelerated Education Classroom, for the last four years at CE Colonia Sensunapán - said: «We have marked history, we have marked the lives of students who were forgotten; 14-year-olds with a first grade certificate. Now, it has been a blessing that MINED has seen fit to implement the Accelerated Classroom within our school ». His words were expressed in relation to the project on improving the infrastructure of Accelerated Education classrooms of 30 schools nationwide.
"By 2021, we are open to receiving all those Sonsonate students who have fallen behind," said Contreras, aware that the teaching and learning process of many children and young people has not only been interrupted by poverty, marginalization or conflict situations, but also due to the current crisis due to the pandemic (worldwide), but which can also lessen its effects with the Accelerated Basic Education program for the First and Second Cycle.