Before I came to Ecuador, Madison (the old International Practicum supervisor) sent me a YouTube video promoting Colegio Menor, the school I am working at. If you read the comments, some of them praise the amazing quality of the school, but others criticize the fact that there are children on the street and some children are going to this fancy school. When I first talked to my host family about working at Colegio Menor, they told me that the students at the school have a reputation for being snobs. While private education is much more feasible in Ecuador (it is much cheaper and there are more options), Colegio Menor is the most expensive private school in Quito. Comparing my experiences with my practicum at Colegio Menor to some of my colleagues’ experiences volunteering at other schools in the Quito area has helped me see the inequity in schools.
It is very apparent that Colegio Menor has a lot of resources. The school has a campus with beautiful buildings and nice sporting fields. There is a cafeteria that offers breakfast, with items such as pancakes, and lunch, with food such as sushi and ceviche. There is a library with books of varying levels in both Spanish and English. The library also has a smart board and around twenty iPads to help instruction. While the teachers do work with two or three classes, there are teachers specialized in Spanish, Language Arts/Social Studies, and Math/Science. There is also an assistant that helps the Language Arts Teachers. There are also multiple psychologists and specialists to help students with special needs. In addition to the standard classes, school has strong music and art instruction. The students go on several different field trips throughout the year. Furthermore, there are special events some weekends to promote school spirit and parent participation. There are even after schools clubs in which the students can participate. The students and teachers have plenty of resources to help them succeed.
On the other hand, one of my friends is volunteering in a public school in Quito and another is volunteering at a school for children on welfare. At the public school, there is one teacher for all subjects. She often leaves my friend (who is not an education major and doesn’t feel completely comfortable with Spanish) for long periods of time. There are many behavioral issues in the classroom. The school for children on welfare is located in an dangerous area, so much so that my friend is not allowed to bring a bag to her volunteering to prevent robbery. One of the students took a knife from the school and was threatening another student with it. Each student is given five dollars to buy lunch. There is one teacher for each class. That teacher often has to lock the door to prevent students from leaving the school. The teachers sometimes physically punish the children. Hearing about these situations is disheartening.While I appreciate being able to see/ participate in the effective instruction at Colegio Menor, I am aware that the students there have a very different experience from some other students in Quito. I feel guilty having my practicum count as my volunteering. Nonetheless, this experience has further fueled my desire to promote social equity and help provide a better education for those with fewer resources.