The education system of rural school children face many challenges and difficulties. Therefore, children usually follow their parents steps which is usually not finishing high school and working on anything that may be available such as working the land, fishing or selling coconuts. In the process, they procreate children and the cycle continues.
Besides school drop out, there are many problems within the education system such as:
- Many parents don´t encourage students to attend school.
- It is common for children to walk long distances to the nearest school, walk under the sun and with the risk of walking alone.
- Often, teachers live far away from school and therefore it is difficult to get to work every day.
- Overage is common, making it difficult for teachers to integrate the students.
- Children don´t see school as a responsibility and it is common for a kid to miss 40 days of a school a year.
- Students don´t learn how to learn, they have difficulty expressing themselves and show a lack of critical thinking.
- Students are weak in character, attitude, leadership, and accountability.
- They are also very resistant to change.
- Their community does not offer economic opportunities, reinforcing the idea that going to school is not useful.
Our General Objectives
Share Smiles has two general objectives for the communities that we work with:
1) For students to go to school at an attendance of at least 85% and to eventually graduate high school.
2) Help develop the communities we work with through tourism.
To achieve our general objectives, we work around four main strategies:
1) Create attractive school environments that motivate students to go to school:
Share Smiles wants to create schools that motivates the student to say “I Want to go to school!”. It is common for rural communities not to have playgrounds, so a beautiful one for recess can motivate a student to go to school. Also, attractive decorations and interesting activities such as games, videos and colorful books will motivate students.
2) Taking students outside of their comfort zone:
Share Smiles believes that developing activities outside the school and the community is important to expand horizons and stimulate the minds of rural school students: Activities within this strategy include camping trips, educational field trips, sports tournaments, etc.
3) Develop extracurricular activities that are both interesting and relevant:
It is important to fill gaps in the academic area through extracurricular activities in a way that the student feels motivated to participate: from sports to English and computer classes as well as instruments and crafts.
4) Develop and offer touristic activities in the communities we sponsor:
The communities we work with are beautiful and with tourism potential. We are offering activities such as kayak trips through mangroves, sea turtle tours and volcano hiking. This provides tangible opportunities for locals and future entrepreneurs. Sister companies also offer these areas as part of their product catalogues, sharing it with several companies in various countries around the world.
The strategies are developed through the following programs:
● I go to school!:
This program has several activities that help and motivate children stay in school. Some of the activities include: support in school supplies, backpacks, monitoring of school attendance for each student along with periodical meetings with parents or guardians. Also, incentive activities for the students such as educational field trips and end of the school year celebrations and gifts!
● Sports and Smiles:
Sports is an excellent way to learn about important values such as teamwork, leadership and work ethic. It is also an effective way of keeping kids away from negative activities. Some of the activities include sport tournaments and support with sport equipment and uniforms.
● I speak English!:
For a student in a rural area, learning another language, especially English, is key for finding economic opportunities. Also, for tourism, English is fundamental. An activity within this program is to provide an English teacher at the schools and offer English classes as an extracurricular activity.
● I learn values:
Students may finish school, learn a second language or learn computers; but strong values will eventually make a difference in the future of the students. To reinforce values, several activities are done such as camping trips with a specific value theme, workshops, sports and constant reinforcement within all Share Smiles activities.
● I love my country:
The purpose of this program is to provide the fundamentals to prepare students for the tourism industry. Students must learn to appreciate and be proud of their country. They must start within their own community, taking care of the environment and with a big desire of sharing their home with visitors. Some of the activities include local tour guide trainings, workshops about the country and field trips.