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Education: The Seed for Sustainable Transformation

The classrooms of the schools and colleges of Ecuador are filling little by little after a period that, with frightening strength, reminded us of the importance of education in our society and the inequity of access to it in rural Ecuador. Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency are unprecedented phenomena for modern society. These contexts require urgent actions that reflect our innovative and resilient human potential.

By Diana Troya

Foto: Estefanía Bravo

People’s potential to build a just and sustainable future is indisputable. Quality and inclusive education is the opportunity for each student to shine with their own light, and together generate collective actions that move us all towards a society of wellbeing for all, whether human and non-human.

The transition towards regenerative lifestyles requires a radical change in everyone’s mentality and behavior. It is key in the process of moving from the hyper-consumerism in which we live, to new, more responsible ways of life that protect the ecosystems of which we are undoubtedly part.

We need a society that is empathetic and creative, one that isn’t afraid to dream, one the is knowledgeable about the environment, the climate and society, that understands what is at stake, motivated to imagine and build new futures that place care for life to the fore. For all this to be achieved, we must invest in a humane and innovative form of education that encourages social and environmental responsibility both in rural areas and in large cities, particularly in mega-biodiverse regions, such as Ecuador.

At Fundación Futuro we understand that the forthcoming generations are the key to caring for and sustaining life in Pichincha Province’s Chocó Andino region. However, we also know that it is almost impossible to innovate if one’s basic needs are not met when young. The gap to access educational opportunities, adequate infrastructure and connectivity in rural areas is a huge challenge for Ecuador.

School, above all in rural areas, not only fulfills a role as a learning space, but also as a space for community, with enormous transformational potential. School is where the society of wellbeing we so desire is truly built. In addition, it’s where, for many people, the path begins towards the culture of sustainability that we dream of.

With this in mind, the Fundación Futuro allied with several institutions deeply committed to transforming education in Ecuador. Together, we are working on the comprehensive improvement of education in the communities that surround our Mashpi and Tayra reserves. We promote the development of inclusive, equitable and quality education, based on respect for life in all its forms, one that also equips people with the tools that allow them to live with dignity, build independent lives and contribute positively to their society.

Together with Enseña Ecuador, an Ecuadorian NGO that promotes an education of excellence, we implemented a program to improve the quality of education in the schools of San José de Mashpi and Guayabillas. The students received support in key areas and we also worked to strengthen community ties that supported the community’s collective commitment to the education of their children. When the pandemic arrived, this program took an important turn.

Based on this first experience, in 2021, we adapted the program in the communities of Pacto Loma and La Delicia to one where we work closely with the local teachers in order to improve the academic performance, agency and critical thinking of the students, through various learning techniques and tools. Through this innovative teacher-focused program, we guarantee the sustainability and future scalability of the collaboration with Enseña Ecuador, because we understand that transforming the educational system is an organic and permanent process that depends on the commitment of the entire educational community.

In San José de Mashpi and Guayabillas, Unidos por la Educación — another NGO of institutions, entities and people that promotes social, environmental, economic, cultural, health and productive development through education — we continued with the process of innovation and improvement in state-run, public schools. Currently, we also are working on a technical baccalaureate project in the community of Pachijal.

Another educational challenge that characterizes the rural areas of Ecuador is the high dropout rate, mainly during the transition to secondary school. The reality in the Chocó Andino is no different. We therefore decided to promote a scholarship program for adults who wish to complete their studies. We signed agreement with the Monseñor Cándido Rada Educational Foundation (FUNDER), through its Popular Private Distance Solidarity Educational Institution, which offers an accelerated education program for adults to complete their basic higher education in one year, and High School in 15 months. This program creates an enormous, positive social impact, since young people and adults can complete their studies through online courses.

We know the challenges for education in Ecuador are great. We are committed to education as a keystone in our mission to care for life in all its forms. We want the seeds we have sown, and continue to sow, to grow and blossom in all the educational communities in which we work.

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