Ecuador, Quito: Ethics Education Workshop in Cooperation with UNESCO

 Family Violence and School Violence were the issues focused on at the workshop held for the education community and students at a public school in Quito.
From February 9 to 13, GNRC-Ecuador trained a group of teachers, student-leaders, parents and members of religious communities in the use of the Learning to Live Together manual. The ethical challenges addressed at the workshop were the issues of family violence and violence in school. This was the first training workshop GNRC has implemented in cooperation with UNESCO, bringing to the local level this inter-governmental agency’s relationship with the Manual. The workshop activities included an introduction to “Stopping Violence in Schools,” UNESCO’s Guide for Teachers, with its ten spheres of action to promote a culture of peace. The workshop was the culmination of a negotiation stage with UNESCO-Ecuador, and made way for new possibilities of cooperation in the region, through UNESCO’s Associated Schools Project (ASPnet).

The majority of the workshop’s thirty participants came from the Diego Abad de Cepeda School’s education community (DAC). Part of an 8 school educational network, which includes a pre-school, encompassing approximately 4,000 students, this school was chosen by UNESCO for this new experience. DAC is located in Quito’s La Planada barrio, whose inhabitants are mostly from the poorest economic strata of the population. The participation of people from La Planada reflected the premise that promoting education “is as much a responsibility of the school as it is of the family and the broader community that surrounds the children and youth,” a fact expressed in the African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child.”

The DAC school was referred by UNESCO to GNRC-Ecuador given the context generated by the administration and faculty at the school, who looked into the causes of poor school performance in a cluster of students, and identified this issue’s correlation to family violence, as well as school violence. They decided to seek comprehensive responses to the problem.

The workshop opened up space for a dialogue about the education of DAC’s children between teachers, the students themselves, parents, and community leaders in the barrio from the Catholic and Evangelical churches. Also participating were two teachers from a school under the auspices of the Anglican Church, as well as representatives from CLAI, the Lutheran Church and the Bahá’í Community. The workshop was a first step in creating new alliances among participants, which became formal by way of the creation of an action plan.

The participating students gradually shed their timidity, and their voices began to sound stronger as the workshop advanced, as they were empowered by the reflections and group exercises regarding their rights and responsibilities, their right to participate and to good-quality education. In their interventions they reiterated the emotional abandon children grow up with in their families, and the lack of attention teachers give to different situations of deprivation that affect them. As for the teachers, the workshop gave them the opportunity to become aware of their own influence and transforming potential in the lives of students; and the urgent need to devise and implement new strategies in their work as educators, including alliances with the students themselves, and the extended education community, in order to achieve the workshop’s final objective: Prevent family violence, school violence, and promote better integration at school and school performance among DAC students, reaffirming their right to comprehensive education.

The workshop achieved its specific objectives: 1) Get participants to share meaningful experiences in order to build a dialogue process, and bridges of trust among the barrio institutions and the school. 2) Identify children as subjects of rights and leading players in the deconstruction of harmful behavior, and the construction of positive relationships. And 3) Pursue agreements among the parties that comprise the education community in pursuit of the general objective.

The school-network’s director appraised the workshop as a far-reaching educational activity that far exceeded expectations. Workshop organizers also considered that the workshop exceeded plans and expectations, upon listening to the testimony and evaluation of the participants: *one student’s insight was that conflict could actually be solved peacefully, after describing herself as a young person that resorted to solving peer-conflicts with “blows.” *The institutional psychologist said the workshop had not only changed his professional point of view, but it had changed him personally as well. *The president of the parent organization committed to creating a school-garden, and said that, as a result of the workshop, hope for real change had blossomed for the school. Likewise, other testimony ensued, encouraging our efforts as GNRC. A particularly gratifying situation was that the action plan included the Lutheran Community’s commitments to support the DAC school, and plans for mutual support-exchange between DAC and the Anglican Church’s school.

The technical report from the UNESCO Education Office made the following recommendation:

“We consider that the process initiated at Diego Abad de Cepeda School, aimed at preventing family violence, school violence, and promoting improved integration and school performance, can be one of the ASPnet’s innovative experiences for other education institutions around the country and the Region, and to assert the right to quality education; taking into account all the factors of violence surrounding this institution of learning, as well as the entire Q3 Network, and above all, the interest shown by the workshop participants in their entirety, to learn and implement techniques for comprehensive education. In this regard, UNESCO’s support for this process is important, as well as the GNRC alliance that was initiated, the development of similar experiences in other countries, and later on, exchange of experiences with other educational institutions in the country and the Region.”

The “network” is moving forward through the will of those who come together and act in favor of children.

Written by Mercedes Román.

Full report in Spanish by Rita Simons download here
Links to the news-story on the UNESCO web page  UNESCO presente en el taller de capacitación “Aprender a Vivir Juntos” en Cumbayá, Ecuador
Link to the UNESCO web page

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