COVID Update: Our Latin American Education Partners

CoDevelopment Canada Report on Latin American teacher partners during the Covid19 pandemic

A father works with his daughter on a home-based assignment developed by the First Professional College of Honduran Teachers (PRICPHMA)

Soon after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid19 a pandemic, governments in Latin America began to establish measures to inform and prevent its propagation, forced vacation on workers, suspended contracts and adjusted benefits won in previous years. Education authorities responded with indefinite school closures, instructed teachers to begin work from home and continue providing education services through a series of online platforms.

Programs like “Aprendo en Casa/ Learning at Home” mostly provide online resources for teachers and students in every education level; and on a smaller scale through national television, radio, and school booklets. This shift to virtual education has sharpened the already existing exclusion from education for many. Not all communities and teachers have access to internet or must do so through a mobile phone and limited data plans, others in the rural area don’t have electricity. Although teachers have demanded the closing of the digital gap in the past, they say the most pressing concern is the lack of running water for washing hands, students’ food insecurity and respect for labour rights during the pandemic. In certain municipalities where the job losses are being felt the most, communities are blocking traffic to demand food, and others believe it is better to die from hunger than coronavirus.

With the declaration of states of emergency and border closures, countries established strict curfews and fines; partner organizations moved to ensure special permits to travel to and from their schools, students’ homes in the rural area, and to specific government offices should they need to represent a member before their employers. They also demanded that education workers be provided the proper personal protection equipment, and a laptop per teacher.

Schools and union locals organized to prepare packages for students with learning materials, general information on symptoms of Covid19 and how to prevent infection, as well as food hampers and local victim services contact information. There is a clear spike of reported cases of gender-based violence, as women and girls find themselves in quarantine with their aggressors. In the schools where the Non-Sexist and Inclusive Pedagogy program is active or where gender-equity processes within the union are taking place, student and parent guides include gender equity principles and NSIP teaching aids. Rural teachers are taking a non-tech approach to distance learning, by visiting students with school packages, checking in with parents and going over the continued learning plans.

A health crisis should not lead to another social crisis. The fear of becoming ill, of not being able to circulate freely even during “allowed hours”, of how teachers might be evaluated based on digital student products, is generating a great deal of stress, anxiety, agitation and disruption of mental health.

Without a doubt, women are the front line of defense, in healthcare, education and at home, women are in charge of preparing food, hygiene and care work, therefore the load of dealing with the current health crisis is affecting women and girls in particular. According to a 2014 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report1, 68.5% of teachers in secondary and 78% of teachers at the elementary levels in region are women. Many are heads of their households and have added these new tasks to their regular unpaid domestic and care work.

Under these conditions, partners are discussing the current health and social crisis using a class struggle analysis. Forums and pedagogical meetings center on how to provide students with educational tools needed to address local and global issues. Indigenous educators are also present by expressing that colonization needs to be challenged in the educational contents and methodologies through the promotion of indigenous education for taking care of one another and of Mother Earth, in tune with the principles of “Buen Vivir/ Living Well”.

Partner immediate actions

In Peru, SUTEP (Peruvian Education Workers’ Union) and its Women’s Secretariat is providing online professional development opportunities for members, including tutorials on how to work with the online mechanisms. Virtual seminars focus on gender-sensitive approach to education, critical use of technologies of information and communication, and labour rights during the pandemic. They are strengthening their community engagement, demanding increased funding for public education and presenting proposals for new class size. They are also demanding tablets and free of cost internet for teachers and students in urban and rural areas alike. By the end of April 2020, 9 teachers had died of Covid19.

In Veracruz, Mexico, the Totlahtol Yoltok Teacher’s Collective is organizing healing ceremonies with communities, holding “long memory” town halls with elders on how indigenous communities have survived pandemics in the past. They are taking the classroom into the communal territory and starting to hold small group sessions with students to practice Nahuatl vocabulary in different settings, for example; going to the local market, making home recipes, trading of diverse crops and goods, promoting the values behind traditional agriculture, “Living Well” and raising awareness on gender-based violence.

In Colombia, FECODE (Colombian Teachers’ Federation) created a Humanity Fund in order to provide medical services for members in need. They have created an online space for sharing alternative educational materials and professional development for teachers. Virtual seminars include presentations on education financing, fitness training, Afro-Colombian and Indigenous cultures, mental health in times of Covid19 and others. FECODE is also working with rural and indigenous teachers to promote alternative education opportunities. Teachers are demanding increased spending for public education, respect for the teaching profession and a stop to the killing of social leaders and unionists. On April 27, head teacher Jairo de Jesus Jimenez Isaza was assassinated in the department of Antioquia.

In Honduras, COPEMH (Honduran High School Teachers’ College) and PRICPHMA (First Professional College of Honduran Teachers) are strengthening their engagement with local communities by supporting organizational efforts made by community groups to provide food and shelter to those who lost their jobs and migrant or deported communities, distributing alternative and non-sexist educational materials to students and accompanying parents in distance learning.

In Costa Rica, SEC (Costa Rican Education Workers’ Union) and its Women’s Secretariat have increased the services provided by their Cooperative to provide emergency medical services and up to 50% discounts on food hampers and deliveries to members and the public in general. They are also demanding that education authorities provide laptops and free of cost internet to all teachers and students. Some teachers are creating crafts with students to thank healthcare, sanitation and food chain workers in public spaces. Others are focusing on enhancing social and emotional aspects of their pedagogical mediation.

In El Salvador, ANDES 21 de Junio (National Association of Salvadoran Educators) and the Women’s Secretariat created a space for providing education workers with 24/7 basic medical attention and permanent delivery of medicines for members with chronic illnesses. They also bargained to ensure active members and contract teachers be covered by the ISBM (Salvadoran Teachers’ Welfare Institute, and ensure that the national hospital network provides services to all education workers in case of emergency. The ISBM also committed to providing teachers with one million masks and alcohol-based gel to be distributed in the following weeks.

Situation of confirmed Covid19 cases in the Latin America (May 4, 2020):

Data on Covid 19 in select Latin American Countries as of May 12, 2020


1 Cristian Cox, “Situation of teachers in Latin America”, Regional Strategy for Latin America and the Caribbean Report, UNESCO-ORLEAC, Santiago 2014.

COVID Update: Colombia

Colombia – FECODE (Colombian Educators’ Federation)

We have been hearing from our partners in Latin America about their own struggles in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is an excerpt from recent postings by Jose Hidalgo Restrepo Bermeo, Coordinator of the “Schools of Territories of Peace” Project being implemented by CoDev’s partner FECODE.

Please accept this fraternal greeting. I am writing this evening from my apartment and want to encourage you to follow self-isolation and preventative care measures as laid out by the authorities and health care professionals.

This is a time for action. The immediate and urgent tasks we must undertake are to take care of each other by taking actions that will impede the progress of this virus. We need to understand the complexity of this crisis and act with critical, creative, responsible and serious knowledge.

In Colombia there are more than 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and Bogota is the most impacted city with 472 of these cases. Seventeen people have died as of April 1, 2020. There is total confinement but it has been very complicated due to the high levels of poverty. There are Venezuelans without work, street vendors, the informal economy, businesses that have laid off or discharged workers without pay, and renters that have been evicted.

While not in Bogota, other regional governments have implemented a type of ID card system [“pico y cedula”] in order for people to move freely and make their basic food purchases,according to the last digit of their ID card. As of last Friday, teachers are on vacation until April 20, and there is no way of knowing if isolation measures will continue after that time. In Bogota, the school calendar has not changed and; teachers are working on classes from their homes.

COVID Update: Peru

Peru – SUTEP (Peruvian Education Workers’ Union)

As of April 28, in Peru there are 31,190 confirmed cases of COVID-19; 4,088 of which are hospitalized and 854 people who have died1, including 9 teachers. Common crime has subsided, however domestic violence has increased with many women and girls who are forced to social distance with their aggressors.

On March 18, after the National Government announced quarantine measures, the Ministry of Education informed teachers engage in distance learning through the program “Aprendo en Casa/ Learning at Home”. This platform provides access to learning opportunities for pre-school, elementary and secondary levels through an online website, one public television channel and one public radio station.

Teachers have been working online with certain limitations as there are many communities that don’t have access to internet or the signal is very weak. SUTEP was successful in delaying the start of the school year until health authorities can guarantee that it is safe to do so. In addition, they have demanded that the government distribute 1 million tablets with internet access for teachers and students in rural regions, while recognizing that more is needed to close the digital gap at the national level.

We believe this is an opportunity to strengthen our engagement with parents and their much needed involvement in student learning. SUTEP is also creating online professional development opportunities focused on a gender-sensitive approach, use of technologies for information and communication, tutorials for filling the online monitoring forms and for labour rights during the quarantine.


COVID Update: Guatemala

GUATEMALA – Artesana Collective

Andrea with a box of teaching tools

As of May 1, 2020, Guatemala reports 599 confirmed cases of COVID-19: 517 are active; 66 have recovered; and 16 people have died.1 The first case was confirmed on March 13; a Guatemalan citizen returning from Spain. On March 16, the Guatemalan President, Alejandro Giammattei, ordered all borders closed and suspended all international flights. This was followed by an imposed 4:00pm to 4:00am curfew across the country.

Several measures have been put in place by Guatemalan authorities  to prevent the spread of the virus; community markets are only allowed to open between 4:00 am and noon. Because many people cannot work, hundreds of arrests are occurring daily for breaking the curfew, as people feel the economic effects of the mandatory quarantine. Among these are Guatemalans who have been deported from the US during the pandemic. Around eighty percent of the deportees who have tested positive belong to rural indigenous communities where the government is taking more strict measures to guarantee the quarantine. It is important to highlight that in some regions, people have threatened and attacked deportees.

According to CoDev’s Guatemalan Partner the Artesana Collective, a non-profit association that supports women deprived of their liberty and their children, the preventive measures are also affecting this target population. One of the measures taken is the suspension of all visits to detention centres. This includes elderly women as well as mothers living in detention with their young children (newborns to four years of age).

With the support of CoDev’s Canadian Partner the Hawthorne Foundation and individual donors, Artesana is able to provide meals, hygiene and cleaning supplies for more than 100 boys and girls across the country. With the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, Artesana’s General Coordinator, Andrea Barrios, is requesting support and donations to enable the organization to continue to providing emergency relief, as well as for their ongoing work. Please watch Andrea Barrios’s message here.

CoDevelopment Canada stands in solidarity with the Artesana Collective and, more importantly, with women deprived of their liberty and their children. It is important to highlight that they do not have a back-up movement behind them that strengthens actions in favour of these women, or those formerly deprived of liberty. The women’s and feminist movements usually do not include those formerly deprived of liberty in their demands, both at the national and the international levels. On the contrary there is a great deal of prejudice against this population and those who support them. You can donate here to support the Artesana Collective.


Updates on Covid-19 from CoDev’s Partners in Latin America

Get the latest from our Latin American partners in our special reports page.