18 Apr 2011

The Word of Mouth Effect of the Abugida Kindergarten

Hello, Mediterránea supporters,

As you know last year the playgroup for babies was opened at the school in Abugida.  It was a dream finally realised.

The children grow and move up to the next class and new little ones come along and take their place: new toddlers have to be chosen to start at the playgroup next July.  Last year there were 30 places available and the number of children who applied was just slightly over this.  This year around 170 children have already enrolled in just a few days. 

With such an influx of children we have to ask ourselves why the number of registrations has increased so much, if the conditions are the same: children of single mothers, children with HIV, parents with HIV, looked after by grandparents, low incomes and families with large numbers of children.
The answer is, because they now know of a place where their babies are fed, stimulated and loved whilst they are working in order to provide them with a decent future.

Although it seems obvious that this is the case, it’s not always so in Ethiopia.  
Poor people have learned that there is always some catch with everything they are offered, because they don’t trust people who don’t ask for anything in exchange.  Since women and children are exploited, no matter how poor or ignorant they are, they no longer believe in promises but in reality.  They have now seen for themselves that their children can have a secure start in life with hope for the future. Because nobody is going to hire mothers with babies on their backs.

This leads us to the second part which is much more painful: at the present time there are only 30 places for toddlers aged 1 to 2 in the playgroup.  The selection process will take into account the above-mentioned medical and social criteria and we have to do this in person and on site as from 18th April.  It’s going to be very difficult because there is just no more room in the school at the present time. We have 215 children, from the age of 1 but we are not even sure what age some of the older children are, because the parents lie about their age in order to be able to enroll them in Abugida which is a pre-school.

We can build one or two more classrooms for babies if we can get the funding.  We also have to “push” up into primary school some of the older children, no matter how happy the children are at Abugida it’s not good for them to leave when they are 10 years old; they get behind starting primary school and therefore in their education. They are at risk of not even finishing primary school as it’s not the same starting when they are 6 than when they are 10.  Furthermore most of the children who leave Abugida go to Fitawrari, where we run a school dining room and where they are assured of a place.

This is why we believe that we should encourage as many babies as possible to enter the school, as they are the most fragile.
Let’s see how we can achieve this….

One Good Thing Leads to Another

Virginia will arrive at the Abugida school on 8th May to start up the classrooms for blind children.

In 2002 Virginia Pérez won first prize in a competition in Spain for her innovative invention. A doll - called Brailin – which helps the blind to learn Braille. Today it is very popular in Spain and the whole European community where they have developed her brand. Even the Chinese are manufacturing them.

Since winning the ONCE prize Virginia hadn’t received any kind of subsidy. Now at last her good work has been vindicated and recognised in her home country of Argentina. The Provincial state of Corrientes has promised – after her trip to Ethiopia – to finance the mass production of the doll. We are very pleased at this news (and to be part of it all). Sometimes the world is a nice place and globalisation is a good thing...

In a month’s time Virginia will arrive in Ethiopa having been invited to spend two months to show her Brailin doll and demonstrate its uses and to reinforce the theory that toys can help the children to integrate socially.

"Brailin" is much more than a doll. It is an educational tool that helps both sighted and blind children to learn Braille and was devised and created by the teacher born in Buenos Aires, but now living in Corrientes.
Virginia herself confirmed that “the Secretary General of the Government, Carlos Vignolo, has promised to finance the mass production in the Province of Corrientes”.
"It has already been discussed and we will start work on the project when I return from Africa. I have so many expectations in this experience I’m about to undertake in Ethiopa and when I return we are going to work fully on the production together with the Provincial Government”, she assured Radio 92.9 Corrientes.
“It’s an educational resource which I devised to help teachers and to make learning fun for the children”, the teacher told Radio La Red. The original doll was made of cardboard and had some buttons in its tummy in the shape of the Braille alphabet. In 2002 she entered it in a competition in Spain and won. This enabled her to perfect the design.
“Brailin now has six pieces in its chest, small balls which represent the dots which form Braille letters and they stick out of the doll’s chest, forming different combinations”, she explained.

This doll is all the rage is Spain and can also be found in Chile, Brazil and Uruguay and will soon be crossing the borders into Ethiopia. Brailin became the worlds first initiative for learning Braille through play.