The backpacking teachers of Paraguay
For more than a decade, the European Union in Paraguay has been working together with key actors to promote inclusive and quality education for everyone.
Here, early childhood centres are still not widely available in rural areas or areas where remote indigenous communities live.
In these remote regions, children often do not have access to early childhood education and often come from social contexts characterised by poverty and low education and literacy levels.
This is where the ‘backpacking teachers’ come in. These mobile teachers bring education to remote communities. By identifying the neediest children and going to their homes, the backpacking teachers can contribute to reducing social inequalities.
“The Backpacking Teachers project has a particular modality because the children are taken care of inside their family, at home,” says Norma Patiño, School Headmaster in the city of Atyrá.
The backpacking teachers work with both parents and children to create a stimulating learning environment. They promote learning through toys, songs and games so the children do not see their teachers as distant figures, but as partners in the experience.
Because these children that need us the most, are our future.- Arsenia Saldívar, a teacher taking part in the project.
This contact means that children are better prepared to eventually go to a kindergarten when a place becomes available. Moreover, parents become involved in their children’s learning and are taught how to stimulate curiosity and help their children learn at home, in a familiar environment.
The project is implemented through the Early Childhood Education Program of the Ministry of Education and Science and funded by the Fund for Educational and Research Excellence, with support from the European Union.
This initiative started in 2017. It is a non-school-based educational model to develop socio-affective skills in children from 0 to 3 years old.
In total, 125 backpacking teachers are part of the project, each of them visiting around 13 children per day. This number rose to 20 children per day during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Access to education is a right for every child. The EU has worked with the government and other partners for decades to identify alternative pathways to learning and increase education opportunities for the hardest-to-reach.
It is hoped that this project will set an example and pave the way for other more inclusive and accessible opportunities.