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Radio Education in Colombia

  1. Overall Experience

The SDG Certificate, in such a particular period as 2021, was a great professional and human experience. Our team started working together in late September without knowing each other, we only knew that we wanted to develop a social impact project related to education in Latin America. Currently, in May 2021, we still do not know each other physically but we were able to create a special bond through Zoom and we were able to develop a solid project to support radio education programs in Colombia.

Even though our journey started when we applied to the Certificate in October 2020, we can affirm that the adventure became real when we got selected in December. In January 2021, we participated in the Leadership Seminar, a week of zoom conferences and breakout rooms where we met all the other participants and felt we were part of an inspiring cohort. Since then, we met weekly with our scientific advisor, Laetitia Atlani, for a Theory Seminar and with our project advisor, Jennie Cottle. Furthermore, we met as a team on Sundays to discuss the topics of the week and our project advancements. The progress was regular, we learned a lot about the SDGs, the challenges we face to reach them and the Covid-19 implications in their accomplishment. In a more practical approach, we acquired managerial skills to think, develop, present and finance a project. We are convinced we are going to apply these learnings very soon in our personal and professional careers.

Furthermore, we had monthly joint seminars organised by the different universities belonging to the GPPN where we had the opportunity to listen to professors from other universities around the world and discuss with their students. It was great to watch the progress of the other projects and brainstorm with them about joint solutions when the projects were similar to ours.

We will keep from this experience the richness of the exchanges with our interlocutors notably with the stakeholders we interviewed to build our project and the amazing teamwork skills we developed.

  1. Team members

Thawben Berka

Thawben is a hard-working team member. He is French from the Yvelines, a nice department close to Paris on the way to Normandie. He successfully completed his Bachelor in Sciences Po in the Middle East campus in Menton. After this, he did an exchange in the University of California in San Diego. At this moment he is doing a Master Degree in Public Affairs specializing in Public Administration. Thawben is a piscis man that is determined and dedicated in order to achieve his goals.

Sebastian Cortes Moreno

Sebas is a passionate team member. He is Colombian and was living in Bogota before joining Sciences Po for his Bachelor Degree in which he specialized in the Latin American Region. He did an exchange year at McGill University and is currently pursuing a Master Degree in Public Affairs specializing in Social Policy and Innovation. In the future he would like to work in missions related to education and welfare in developing countries. He is a gemini man that appreciates life and people.

Ana Catalina Espinoza

Cata is a resourceful team member. She is Honduran and attended an american school before joining Sciences Po to complete its North American specialized Bachelor program. She spent her third year abroad in Rio de Janeiro where she enjoyed the Brazilian lifestyle. Currently, she is living in La Ceiba in Honduras and she is enrolled in the School of Public Affairs specializing in Politics and Public Policy. She is a capricorn girl very engaged in social work within her community.

Alexandra Sinicki

Alex is a diligent team member. She is French and participated in the European Youth Parliament before joining Sciences Po for her Bachelor Degree. She is passionate about Asian cultures and she spent her third year abroad in Japan. She liked it so much that she is coming again next September to complete a Dual Degree between Sciences Po and The University of Tokyo. Currently, she is enrolled in the Security and Defense specialization at the Sciences Po’s Public Affairs School. She is a taurus girl that has managed to work part-time while studying….

Ana Sofia Torres Diaz

Ana is a determined pragmatic team member. She is Colombian from Cali, and has also lived in Spain. She has worked for the Colombian Vice Presidency and has had significant experiences in journalism. She is very interested in Politics and specially on the organization of campaigns and all the logistics revolving around them. She pursued a bachelor in Sciences Po specialized in the Latin American Region. She is a Libra girl with great ambitions and a bright future ahead of her.

  1. Project Summary

Like the majority of countries worldwide, Colombia too has been affected by the pandemic and had to undergo strict school closures as part of containing measures. Latin America was indeed one of the most affected continents by these school closures. As a matter of fact, students had to adapt quickly to online learning in a country that is still facing major inequalities in terms of access to the internet: only 63% households in urban areas have good access to the internet, while the case is only 16% in rural areas.

We also know for a fact that Radio has always been a great means of communication in Colombia in the past, as it helped many rural households in the 20th century to access educational programs. Even the father of one of our members underwent Education through radio, showing its popularity in the Colombian culture and history. Still nowadays, radio is the media with the largest share of coverage among Colombian households, even in the most remote areas.

If online learning has worked in many countries so far, the situation in Colombia makes it way more difficult to implement. In fact, due to these inequalities on access to the internet some students were denied their right to education, and were not able to follow any kind of education for several months. This is precisely what led us today to think of a public policy project which could combine good quality education, while taking into account these disparities. Students are the major losers of these situations and something needs to be done to correct these inequalities.

After conducting a design thinking process, we concluded on the development of three main components of our project: radios, phones and a tutorship. Therefore, the students participating in the program would receive a connectivity kit including a radio, a basic 4G phone, and a weekly basic phone plan to allow them to follow the existing weekly school radio programs. The students would have to pay attention to the broadcasts because at the end of each one, a broad question relating to the content of the class is asked. A full week is given to the students to allow them to prepare a synthetic answer and send it through SMS to their teacher. Moreover, the students will also be asked to call their teachers during working hours to have at least an hour of phone conversation each week. This call allows the teacher to check on the comprehension of the weekly material and their academic progress.

Our pilot project will include 200 students in the Luis Hernando Vargas school in Casanare, a rural eastern region of Colombia. This school develops a radio program within their curriculum known as “El maletín de las ideas” (The briefcase of ideas). It is focused on developing the speaking skills of the students. Most of these students do not have the tools to listen to this radio program, so we will provide them with these basic tools. The connectivity kit will in this case support the existing academic programs.

In the long run, we thus aim at building a strong, adaptable, and structured project providing tools, motivation and organization to the school, their teachers and students. By (re)connecting an entire generation of children to a qualitative and interactive education, we thus aim both at reinforcing social cohesion and reducing the educational inequalities exacerbated by Covid-19 while expecting a positive economic impact on the long-term.

In order to evaluate the project we will analyze four main indicators before and after the implementation of the project. The first one is class attendance measured through the SMS weekly answer. Then, the possession of materials to follow the courses determined by the extent of the connectivity kits. As well as that, reports of the teachers regarding the academic progress of each student. Indeed, teachers will keep a written follow-up which will include the content of the SMS and phone calls from each student. Every three weeks they will send a brief report to the students’ parents and to the monitoring team indicating the academic progress. Finally, in the long term we will analyze reintegration to school after participation in the project. This will be focused on the rates of dropouts of students involved in the project. We will evaluate the pilot project 1 year after its implementation, by measuring the variation of these four indicators. This feedback will allow us to determine in other specific cases what part of the three components needs to be further developed or focused. For example, in other schools, radio would need to be further reinforced, while this might not be the case in others where tutorship is more important.

Regarding the potential funding sources, our main partners will be the main oil company in Colombia Ecopetrol and telecommunications companies such as Claro or Telefonia. Working together we will be able to finance the pilot project, and then with the help of public territorial entities the project will be able to be scaled up to other regions that might need it as well.

The timeline of our project is to have meetings with major partners such as Ecopetrol and local authorities in June 2021. By July, these partnerships would need to be accomplished and by August we are planning to start the implementation of our pilot project. In October and November 2021, we will start monitoring the pilot project. Then in January 2022 we will start organizing the expansion of the project hoping to start the implementation of this expansion in February or March 2022.

Our communications campaign will consist of the mobilization of all different channels to make our project known. We have a particular focus on first the recipients of the project; parents, teachers and students. We have already disseminated the dynamics of our project with them through a presentation of our project and ourselves. In this presentation we convince them on the importance of this project and on its impact.

As well as that, we have reached key stakeholders such as companies and territorial entities with a predetermined document that emphasizes the importance of the long term impact of our project on the education of the students; and on the future of a whole generation of Colombians. We have also leveraged the singularity of having a small budget that can produce such a great impact to convince our potential partners. The possibility of scalability and adaptability to the rest of the country has also been essential to work with territorial public entities and have the support of the national education authorities.

Finally, this project is ambitious due to its possibilities of coverage and its impact but also very realistic regarding the low budget and basing itself on reinforcing the already existent work and interactions of the actors involved. Territorial entities, companies and recipients of the program have started responding positively to the reach of its impact and seem prone to participate and get involved. The only thing missing is the logistics of its implementation and funding something that we expect to be happening in the next few months.



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