"I never learned how to read, but I want what’s best for my kids"

UNICEF's donation of tablets and data plans to teachers and student advisors has been key to supporting teenagers like Jair, who was close to dropping out of school.

Ana María Castro
“Yo no aprendí a leer, pero quiero lo mejor para mis hijos”
UNICEF/ECU/2020/Arcos
02 September 2021

Jair, 15 years old, spends much of his day building cars out of cardboard. From ambulances and limousines to buses and trucks, the bamboo walls of his room are adorned with all his creations.

"I have a dream of building real cars and being a mechanic. I want to help my family have a better life, but to do that I know I have to study, although sometimes it's not so easy," Jair says.

Human beings have different types of intelligences. In Jair's case, his most developed intelligence is spatial. People with well-developed spatial intelligence have the ability to visualize and create two- and three-dimensional drawings and deal with volumes and measurements.

However, Jair has a degree of intellectual disability making it difficult for him to develop other intelligences such as his linguistic intelligence, which is related to oral and written language. Because of this, he needs more help from the educational community and his family so he can learn to read and write.

“Yo no aprendí a leer, pero quiero lo mejor para mis hijos”
UNICEF/ECU/2020/Arcos

"With the pandemic, things have been difficult for us in the family, because we don’t feel prepared to help Jair in his studies. I can’t read and I don't know how to help him with his homework. At one point we thought about taking him out of school, but we changed our minds because I want what's best for my kids," comments Mercedes, Jair's mother.

Jair’s teacher realized that he needed reinforcement that went beyond his skills and abilities as a teacher, so she contacted psychologist Liliana Palate.

“Yo no aprendí a leer, pero quiero lo mejor para mis hijos”
UNICEF/ECU/2020/Arcos

Liliana is part of the Department of Student Counseling (DECE) and her role is to provide emotional, social and psychoeducational support when a student and his or her family need it. In some specific cases, the student is also directed to other special protection or mental health services. In Jair's case, Liliana contacted his mother to listen to her concerns and reasons why they were thinking of withdrawing Jair from his studies.

Speaking with the family, Liliana discovered that Jhonny, Jair's stepfather, did know how to read and write, and so through Liliana’s intervention, he and the rest of the family made a commitment to support Jair with his studies.

Jhonny is now in charge of homework help. "I have committed to help with his homework. Sometimes it takes longer than expected, but with patience we manage to do the homework together. When we're a little frustrated, we call Liliana so that she can give us guidance. I want to support the children because my wish for them is to have opportunities that I couldn’t have," shares Jair's stepfather.

UNICEF Ecuador

Connectivity during the pandemic

To enable teachers and student advisors like Liliana to continue to support students and families during the pandemic, UNICEF has donated 4,335 data plans and 899 tablets to teachers and student advisors for maintaining contact between students, families and the educational community.

"The tablet is a super tool. Many families do not have internet and with tablets we can communicate through calls. In Jair's case, I contact him and his mom through calls and WhatsApp and I also make home visits to check on his progress," Liliana says. In this case the tablet, and the link it provided for the family to receive ongoing support from Liliana, was key to the family’s commitment to help Jair and prevent him from dropping out of school. Disconnected, they felt overwhelmed, connected and supported, they realized they could do it.

“Yo no aprendí a leer, pero quiero lo mejor para mis hijos”
UNICEF/ECU/2020/Arcos
“Yo no aprendí a leer, pero quiero lo mejor para mis hijos”
UNICEF/ECU/2020/Arcos

This initiative by UNICEF Ecuador, which is being carried out in coordination with the Ministry of Education and with support from the Education Cannot Wait fund and the Government of Denmark, has allowed more than 65,000 students in Ecuador to receive pedagogical and psycho-emotional support.