In Bolivia, the omicron variant halted the return to in-person learning, pushing all instruction back online. We’ve experienced the challenges with online learning here in Canada as children have tried to connect virtually and stay engaged at home. For those in Bolivia, there are the added challenges of inconsistent wifi access and a lack of devices. Many children must share the one family cellphone among siblings to attempt to receive online instruction. Local churches have responded and opened their buildings, providing computers and a quiet place for children to learn.
Can you imagine sending your child to work in the early morning hours before school each day? That’s the reality for Jose Luis, a 10-year-old boy living in rural Guatemala. His school day begins at 10am, but before that, he spends 5 hours in the fields picking tomatoes. The pandemic has put increased pressure on his mother, a single parent, to make ends meet and his labour is needed to bring in income. Both Jose’s mother and his 8-year-old sister Adelaide are illiterate because the pandemic has kept Adelaide out of school for much of the past two years. Yet, there is hope for this family. A tutoring program at the local church welcomes children in to receive educational support and instruction, as well as meals. Jose’s mother also benefits from parenting classes offered at the church to gain tools for supporting her children in healthy ways.
Maybe you’ve experienced how devastating it can be when your first years in school are difficult. Perhaps you struggled as a child, or one of your children had a negative experience at the start of their education journey and you know the difficulty in turning that negativity around. This was the situation for 7-year-old Swami living in a rural village in India. His parents are illiterate and so were unable to help him when he began to struggle and fall behind his classmates academically. Their family lives on $110 a month through the father’s work as a rickshaw driver, and $30 of the monthly income goes to provide medications for Swami’s grandmother. Their economic situation means they are unable to provide school materials for him, and Swami often goes to bed hungry. Quickly, Swami became uninterested in school and his grades continued to drop.
A local church decided to help meet Swami’s need, along with many other children, through a free tutoring club. Swami receives the support he’s unable to get at home, and it’s making a real difference. Not only are Swami’s grades improving, but he is also excited about his future and wants to be a doctor when he grows up so he can help the people of his village.
We are cheering on Swami, Jose Luis, and Adelaide and all the students who have had so much taken from them. As One Campaign’s Executive Director David McNair said, “This virus has taken enough from us already – it must not take the futures of millions of children as well.”
Thankfully, through CBM’s partners and local churches, many of those students will not be left behind. It’s in the margins, the places that are overlooked, where the church is present and caring for those often pushed to the sidelines.