Iquitos is a very isolated city with a great lack of information and education. In the neighborhoods where El Manguaré is active, we often deal with families that move from the jungle to the big city, Iquitos. In the jungle, families live mainly on fishing and cultivating a small piece of land. Therefore, in the jungle having many children is a useful survival strategy. Parents need hardly invest in their children who will, from a certain age (the earlier the better), help in the fishing or the farm plot. The children are also generally a pension plan for the parents.
Schooling in jungle villages is encouraged by the government which offers students a lunch, but the school is often more of a place where parents drop off their children for childcare purposes rather than a place where any actual teaching is occurring.
When a family decides to move to Iquitos, their life changes drastically. From the moment they get to the big city they suddenly must invest in their children. Birth papers, education (which costs money), and not to mention the food, all must now be purchased. For this reason, the logical first priority for many of them becomes earning money. Starting from a very young age children are sent to help fight this battle for survival. Thus, childhood, and the stimulation and development of the children which it provides, are destroyed by necessity. The natural things for children to do during their childhood and development such as sing songs, play games, read books, and being involved in the tasks of day-to-day living (at his or her level), are also a luxury that the majority of children from these families never will experience.
As a result, many children from these neighborhoods enter elementary school never having held a pencil. They have little to no creativity, have trouble in concentrating or retaining information, and generally have very low self-esteem.
Objective El Manguaré:
Our goal is to reduce premature drop-out in elementary school, which is often caused by a lack of positive stimulation in early childhood. Through this program we hope to reduce the number of children enrolling in first grade without any cognitive and/or socio-emotional stimulation. We also seek to further the awareness of the importance of early stimulation of a child, in all fields, among the parents and teachers of the target neighborhoods.
Background and plan of action:
The above description of the childhood that many children in the slums of Iquitos suffer, coupled with the low priority given by their parents to education, creates a high risk that children will not go to school, or will drop out early to help the family.
Through the program “I exist and go to school!” (see part 5.1 above), we reach many of these families and we start to talk to them. We convince the parents of the importance of educating their children due to better future opportunities in the big city of Iquitos. We also talk about the importance of good preparation for schooling to prevent premature discouragement and dropping out. This preparation we call early stimulation and that process begins from the moment the child appears in the belly of the mother. This stimulation is partly offset by the teachers of kindergarten, however 40% of the children from these neighborhoods do not attend kindergarten! The main task, however, lies with the parents and other relatives of the child.
To assist parents in this task, in 2011 El Manguaré set up the first Early Stimulation courses near San Lucas. Our Early Stimulation course is based on the Suzuki method(http://internationalsuzuki.org/method.htm). We have in our ranks two accredited Suzuki teachers. The early stimulation is offered in kindergartens and our own pre-school. One of our Suzuki teachers comes once a week per class to encourage creative development in many areas. The parents of the students are invited to participate. There they introduced by our teacher, through the medium of music, to a world of stimulation. Parents are fully involved in the lessons, because the intention is that they also implement the lessons at home.
In addition, via the Program Improving the Quality of Education all teachers are trained in early stimulation. Both individually in their own classroom, and in teacher trainings for larger groups.