Teaching for Change

Guest Blogger: Nicki Benson, CoDev Board Member

“But teacher, how do I tell my father to help clear the dishes? If I say that, he will slap me!” These are the kinds of questions that María Eugenia Morelos de Aria gets from her students in rural El Salvador as she puts her non-sexist and inclusive pedagogy (NSP) training into practice.
It is a difficult job but she is determined: “if we want to see change, we have to do something. We have to teach them critical thinking and to be agents for change”.

Maria Eugenia’s students prepare a puppet show on different kinds of family structures. Photo by Nancy Knickerbocker.

María Eugenia is one of a core group of women who were the first to receive NSP training in El Salvador. CoDev, along with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, proudly supports several NSP programs throughout Central America. On April 16th of this year, I had the honour of attending the graduation ceremony for the first Non-Sexist and Inclusive Pedagogy Diploma Program offered in El Salvador.

The Delegation with Graduates of the Non-Sexist Pedagogy Diploma Program in El Salvador.

The graduation was one of many stops on a recent teacher delegation to El Salvador and Honduras. In El Salvador, we met with the National Association of Salvadoran Educators (ANDES 21 de junio) whose Women’s Secretariat has facilitated the program. In addition to the Diploma program, they are also developing a beautiful curriculum document which highlights gender equality but also encourages students to think critically about their country’s history and their own lived experiences.

Maria Eugenia asks her students to reflect. Photo by Nancy Knickerbocker

The activities in the document along with those I observed in Maria Eugenia’s classroom are the most genuine examples of critical pedagogy that I have seen with my own eyes. Not only do they encourage students to be critical thinkers and to focus on issues of social justice, they also use dialogue and reflection as key teaching tools. Teachers using this approach are not authoritative figures who simply deposit information into their students’ brains – they are instead facilitators who encourage students to develop their own consciousness about the world around them.

In Honduras, teachers are also determined to base their lessons on the lives and needs of their students. Because of high rates of teen pregnancy and violence against women in Honduras, they are focussing their program on gender and sexual health for middle school students. We visited a classroom in Honduras, met with the Ministry of Education, met with the College of Middle School Teachers of Honduras (COPEMH), and attended a workshop where the first 35 women to engage in NSP training evaluated the two-year process of creating and implementing their curriculum resource.

It was such an honour to be a witness to the transformative changes that the teachers of Central America have committed to. Although I was there to represent CoDev, more than anything I was there to learn. I learned that there are teachers all over the world who are committed to making the world a more just place. And I learned what it means to put critical pedagogy into action no matter what kinds of resources and support are available.

Mural at the COPEMH office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras

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