An integral part of Tandana's mission is expanding educational opportunities, and we do this in many ways. Our scholarship program directly supports the education of secondary and university students in Ecuador, not only with funding, but also with supplemental summer courses. In addition to supporting individual students, Tandana also supports local schools at their request. So far, Tandana volunteers have helped install computer labs and libraries and they continue to fill instructional gaps by teaching English, computer skills, and other required courses.
In Mali, women in communities where Tandana has worked asked for literacy and numeracy classes so they could be more independent in the market and improve their ability to support their families. The literacy program has grown to encompass women in 30 villages, who are now taking more advanced courses. They've also asked to add on trainings in association management so they can network their micro-enterprises and achieve even more than they dreamed possible just a few short years ago.
Tandana offers rural Ecuadorian students funding so that they can continue their secondary education. We support about 100 high school students each year. Although secondary education is theoretically free in Ecuador, and there is no tuition fee, there are many other costs such as books, school supplies, uniforms, bus fare, internet costs for doing homework, unexpected needs such as when everyone is required to bring money because the teacher is sick or when the classroom needs to be painted, or if they are going on a field trip.
Tandana also supports students in pursuing their professional dreams after they graduate from high school. Our post-secondary students are studying accounting, tourism, medicine, clothing design, auto mechanics, business administration, and other subjects so that they can become professionals who contribute their skills to their communities and society. In exchange for Tandana's support, post-secondary scholarship recipients engage in community service to share their new skills and knowledge for the betterment of their communities. Each student covers half of his or her costs, often by working during the week and attending weekend university programs, or sometimes through support from their families. Tandana covers the other half of expenses. We currently support 23 post-secondary students.
Student Mothers Program in Bandiagara, Mali
The student mothers program supports girls from rural villages who are living in the town of Bandiagara so they can attend middle school. They have to find families to host them, and if they get pregnant, the families usually send them back to their villages and they have to drop out of school. This program provides training for the families to explain that they can still host the students even if they are young mothers. It also provides food and basic medical supplies for the babies, so they are not an extra cost to the families. It helps girls stay in school despite the challenges of motherhood. We currently support 10 student mothers.
"I can’t even name all the advantages of this support, because they are numerous and have helped me a lot. . . . Learning has become easier at school. Thanks to this support, I haven’t been late or missed class because I had to nurse my baby. The parents I live with take better care of my baby. . . .Thanks to your support, I passed from 8th grade into 9th grade.”
Women's Literacy, Leadership, and Enterprise Program in Mali
A group of women in Kansongho, Mali decided that in order to more effectively run their micro-businesses and negotiate in the marketplace, it would help to have basic literacy and numeracy skills. With help from Vital Edge Aid, Tandana created the first literacy and numeracy booklets in Tommo So and began classes. In the first year, 117 women in Kansongho and nearby Kani participated. Women in other villages heard about the program and asked to participate as well. In the second year, we expanded the program to reach 517 women in 10 villages. In the third year, we switched to a more intensive model, focusing on 240 women in 8 villages. Now that model has expanded to 29 villages. Each group studies for several hours every day during five to six months of classes. The students excitedly read letters from the chalkboard, identify written numbers, and write their own letters and numbers, first on slates and then in notebooks. Women of all ages are enthusiastically participating. You can see letters from some of the students on this blog post.
The students are finding all kind of benefits from these studies, including being able to buy and sell without being cheated, being able to count and keep track of their menstrual cycles to better space pregnancies, and being able to use telephones. They are proud to do these things with their own knowledge and not to have to ask for help.
In the next phase, we provided more advanced courses to the students who had already completed one session. Each class of students then selected several leaders to attend workshops on forming and leading women's associations. The leaders shared their experiences, learned about association life and returned home to create official groups that can request funding from the government and other sources for their income generating projects. A committee also selected the ten best proposals for income-generating enterprises from these new associations, and we funded those activities, which include making néré condiment balls, raising sheep, transforming cotton, growing onions, and indigo dyeing.
Through literacy and numeracy classes, workshops on leadership and governance, technical support for the registration of women’s associations, and startup funding for income-generating enterprises, this program builds capacity among rural Malian women to read, write, calculate, work together in associations, and generate income. These skills increase their confidence, independence, success in economic activities, and recognition as agents of local decision-making.
The Provincia de Pichincha school in Tangali had an outdated computer lab with only 11 computers (some of which didn’t work) and recognized the importance of computer skills for students going on to secondary education. We brought Technology Services Corps to Tangali, and they installed 29 laptops and the Rachel+ system in the school’s new computer lab. Technology Services Corps also donated three additional computers to the Community Center, Milk Association and the Water Co-op. Now, these important institutions all have computers to work with, and students from Tangali can go onto higher education with the preparation they need.
“In the beginning we were afraid, but the teacher helped us to use both hands to write, even though we still use just one finger. For us it’s important to learn by a computer because when we finish here we have to go to Otavalo to the city, and students from there have their own laptops at home. They already know how to use computers in the lab.”
--Jefferson, student from Tangali
Ulpiano Navarro School in Quichinche, Ecuador
The computer lab at the Ulpiano Navarro School in Quichinche was out of date and included a very limited number of computers, meaning that several students would have to share one computer during classes. We brought Technology Services Corps to Quichinche, and they installed twenty desktop computers, one document camera, and the Rachel+ software system. These new resources allow the students to learn word processing skills as well as take advantage of the many courses offered by the Rachel+ software.
Alejandro Chavez School in Gualsaqui, Ecuador
Segundo Moreta, teacher at and former director of the Alejandro Chavez intercultural bilingual school in Gualsaqui, Ecuador, is a champion of bilingual education, which promotes valuation of his indigenous culture and language in addition to the Hispanic language and culture of Ecuador's mestizos. His students learn to read and write in Kichwa as well as Spanish, and he encourages faculty to incorporate historical viewpoints, literature, and art from Ecuador's indigenous cultures into their curricula. Part of promoting this kind of culturally-inclusive education is showing that bilingual schools can be top-notch educational centers, rather than just the "poor villagers' schools." While he was director at Alejandro Chavez, he made great improvements, and he knew that in the contemporary world, students who are going to be successful in higher education and in the job market must know how to use computers. He created an up-to-date computer lab for the school so that his students can compete with those who studied in larger cities. Working with Computer Aid International, The Tandana Foundation provided a grant to purchase and ship 16 refurbished computers to Ecuador. They are now installed in the school, and computer classes have begun. The students are excited to learn this new skill.
Ulpiano Navarro School, Quichinche, Ecuador
The Lefler family, who lived in Quichinche, Ecuador for the 2010-2011 school year while volunteering for Tandana, noticed that most of their children's schoolmates at the Ulpiano Navarro School did not read outside of class assignments. Working with the director of the school, they decided to create a library and develop programs to help teachers incorporate it into their curricula and generate interest in reading. Through Help One Future, they raised money to buy books and benches. The school director and parents also got excited about the project and did fundraisers to collect money for converting the school's old kitchen into a library and fixing it up into an inviting environment. The library, serving the schools 430 students, offers over 680 titles in four categories based on reading level. Some of the books are by Ecuadorian authors and promote local culture. Among the books are mysteries, novels, science fiction, fun science books, folk tales, and many others. The kids are very excited about this new resource, flocking into the library during recess to enjoy the books. Tandana volunteers from Northeastern University and Carpe Diem Education helped cover the books so they will last longer, put in check-out cards, catalog, and organize them so that the library can be put to the best possible use. They also helped paint the room for the library. You can read more on the Leflers' blog.
Rural elementary schools in Ecuador and Mali often lack not only equipment, but also sufficient faculty trained in some of the subjects students are expected to learn. Sometimes only one teacher is responsible for dozens of students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Thus schools have asked us for assistance both in supporting additional local teachers and in providing volunteers who can teach English and computer skills to their students.
Tandana supports local teachers selected by the parents' associations who provide a higher teacher to student ratio. We also have interns that ideally stay for the school year and take responsibility for long-term English language learning. We want to emphasize that Tandana volunteers and interns are not taking jobs away from local educators--instead, they support local teachers and meet needs for which there is no time or funding available. If you are interested in teaching with Tandana, please see our current internship openings.
Tools For Educators
La Joya Educational Furniture
The La Joya school requested educational furniture that they can use to teach special needs children about basic household skills, like making a bed, eating at a table, etc. Visiting Tandana volunteer groups helped paint child-sized bedroom and dining room sets, which are now helping the school’s students learn important life skills. Then in 2018, a group of volunteers helped construct and install more furniture including cubbyholes and cabinets for the students to store their things.
Sal Ogol School Furniture
For the 2017-2018 school year the administration from the school in Sal Ogol, Mali asked Tandana for furniture including student desks, teacher desks, chairs, and cabinets. Without desks, students were sitting on stones and planks for class. The Kansongho carpentry workshop made the furniture and delivered it. Now there are enough desks for all the students. According to the parents, their writing has improved.
Our scholarship students in Ecuador often have a difficult transition from their small, rural elementary schools to their large secondary schools in the city. They have asked us to offer summer classes to help them with their most challenging subjects, English and math. Each summer, we offer five weeks of free classes in these subjects and others to about 60 students, including both scholarship recipients and others in the surrounding communities. Local teachers instruct in math, while our summer interns teach English and other subjects such as geography, art, history, and health. Sometimes our university scholarship students teach as well. To add to the educational experience, we take the students on field trips and arrange small service projects for them to participate in. The classes help reinforce their skills, catch up on concepts they missed in school, and prepare them to succeed in the upcoming academic year.