Our question of the day was: “How does education affect a person’s life and a country’s path?”
We had a packed day. First, we had an academic seminar, led by our Global Glimpse Leaders, to provide a context for statistics of education in Dominican Republic (DR). I found it most disheartening that 29% of students in the poorest one-fifth of the population are illiterate.
Then, we had a tour of the University in San Juan De La Maguana from the local GG Dominican student ambassadors. The University was extremely colorful with paintings like a museum or an amusement park. There, we visited English classes of all ages that are funded by the U.S.A. The students were extremely cheerful and welcoming. They were cheering and laughing in class before they even knew we were coming to visit.
Cristino Comas was one of our speakers today who spoke about his personal work to improve education in the country. He currently works to train teachers to make them effective teachers. He mentioned that education has a strong tie to politics in DR. In 1997 a national campaign was petitioned for by all citizens to increase the percentage of the national budget to only 4%. Protests lasted for days where people danced Merengue in the streets until the government increased spending. We need to bring this type of unifying protest to the U.S. for sure! Comas also told us that it is actually in the best interest of the government to keep citizens ignorant so that they can be easily manipulated for voting. I’d never thought of this sort of dictator mentality.
Then after lunch we traveled to a community to meet Fiorda and other program workers who are involved in Quisqueya Aprende Contigo. This program teaches community members how to write in Spanish. In DR you cannot get an ID or take out bank loans if you don’t know how to spell your name. A man, who was over 60 years old, told us that he felt worth something now they he could write.
After learning all about education programs in DR we had the opportunity to teach our own English classes. We had limited time to set up a lesson, but I have to say it was amazing. In my class, which consisted of four Glimpsers and one DR Ambassador, we had to combine lesson plans and come up with activities on the spot. However, after several years of our own schooling we knew what was needed to have a successful class. We rocked it! I was tired at the end, but I felt like I did something important.
Overall, today put my whole education into perspective. I was able to understand the challenges this country faces in politics and in the classroom. I hope that I can bring all of this to my life back at home.