Tihueliske - Women’s Education Program

Tihueliske - Women’s Education Program

Target Start Date: May 01, 2009
$4,646 total cost
$0 still required




Project Description:

Atzin conducted a village wide census in 2005, finding that there were 1,551 women aged 13-40 years living in Tlamacazapa with at least 940 of these women reporting illiteracy (61%). Atzin decided to respond to this age group as the generation who is or will be responsible for family care. Clearly the need for education is substantially greater as there are many women older than 40 years who also are illiterate as well as approximately 500 illiterate men aged 13-40 years.

The plan for program development is to start with two groups of twelve women for six weeks. Classes are to be held in the Atzin classroom (maximum capacity is 15 people), rented from a local building owner. Each group will study for 1.5 hours three times per week, with two educators taking responsibility for teaching the classes. The selected educators each have two years of experience teaching children and, with the assistance of the current Education Program Supervisor (Mimi Dupuis), a fulltime international volunteer, and the Local Program Coordinator (Marie Arce Sandoval), will be able to extend their skills to working with young women. Additional women in the 13-40 age range will be able to register for classes later in 2009 following the first two pilot groups, resulting in two additional classes of twelve, also taught by two educators. These educators will transfer from the children’s education program.

The rationale for this “slow and low” intake – a total of 48 learners in the first six months is twofold: the local educators need teaching experience of adults, and it is important that the enrolled women are successful, that is, that most learn to read and write to a functional level as well as gaining confidence in themselves and their abilities. To date, no literacy program sponsored by the municipal government or Catholic Church – and there have been many over the years, has been effective in assisting any significant numbers of women to learn to read and write. (Interestingly, a small evangelical church established in Tlamacazapa in the 1980s has taught small numbers of women to read through Bible study classes. With a focused purpose of religious conversion, their methodology was based on small group learning and individualized instruction.)

The basic methodology for the Women’s Program will incorporate:

  • small group learning with a low teacher-learner ratio (1:6); 
  • learner-paced instruction; 
  • active learning based on practice and a variety of teaching strategies; 
  • frequent instruction with short homework assignments; 
  • adapted teaching/learning resources relevant to local rural setting and women’s roles and responsibilities; 
  • female-only classes allowing women opportunities to find their voice, given the dominant male-centered social structures and decision making patterns;
  • short classes, allowing time for completion of household and other duties; and 
  • future establishment of daycare for small children allowing young mothers to attend class.

Although it is difficult to anticipate, we predict that most women will be in the program for six months, given the need for frequent repetition of information prior to learning.

Curriculum: After a substantial search for, and review of, existing literacy teaching resources available in Mexico, the Atzin Education team is currently adapting a Freire-based teaching manual from Guatemala to the local Tlamacazapa setting as well as using teaching material from the Tihueliske Children’s Education Program. This revised manual will be piloted, including review from a gender perspective, and a graphic artist contracted to produce a test and final working edition suitable for use in Tlamacazapa and in other parts of rural Guerrero.

Educators: Presently, Atzin has 16 village women working as educators and one woman working as the local program coordinator for a total of 17 women. Each week, the educators, ranging from 15 to 30 years of age, attend a three hour Saturday class to upgrade their reading comprehension and writing skills, to review the past week teaching sessions, and to plan for the upcoming classes. Intensive training of six additional women in August 2009 is desirable because of resignation of 3-4 educators due to marriage and subsequent refusal by the husband to allow his wife to continue working outside the home.

INAE: (National Institute for Adult Education) - Some participants may choose also to enroll in the INAE adult education program managed by Atzin in Tlamacazapa. Those who pass the INEAexams will receive an official government issued literacy certificate, and can continue towards achievement of a primary school certificate.

Update from the field: May 2012

Ruth Wiens, a fulltime dedicated volunteer with Atzin, identified twenty five women in the Tihueliske Womens Education Program with vision problems, and made a few phone calls to friends in Morden, Manitoba. They in turn called up other friends in the Lions Club, and Atzin quickly received a donation of reading glasses.  The women were each fitted with a pair of glasses and suddenly, the alphabet came into focus!  Sometimes our work is like that – with a good idea, the pieces fall into place almost effortlessly, and life becomes just a little bit easier in that moment.

Improvement 2012: The Tihueliske educators clamor for more instruction in order to improve their skills in working with the village women.  Diana Benevides, a certified primary school teacher from California and former fulltime Atzin volunteer, will conduct her annual intensive upgrading classes for the educators this summer for three weeks. 

Update from the field: November 2011

Click here for the update.

Update from the field: November 2010

Diana and Dominga are the two educators working with Tihueliske Women’s Program since its initiation in May 2009.  They continue to teach the classes three days per week, and are gaining lots of confidence by working with the fifteen registrants.  Over the past month, the pair has been visiting all parts of their village, Tlamacazapa, to recruit more women into the program.  Importantly, following Diana and Dominga’s visit to their junior high school, two young women recently joined, having never grasped the basics of reading and writing.  This is an exciting advance, one that we need to build as an important service of tutoring offered to the community.


Update from the field: May 2010

The Women’s Education program continues to operate from a rented room, simply furnished and still of adequate size.  The two educators, Diana and Dominga, are dedicated, rarely missing a class.  The attendance of the women participants varies from eight (a discouraging monthly low for the educators) to eighteen per day with an average daily attendance of 12-14.  As far as we can determine after speaking with several participants, their participation fluctuates depending on: concurrent special events in the village (like money distribution from the government Oportunidades Program or local fairs in May); family illness; workload; parental refusal to give permission; and importantly, no available child care.  Several women in their 30s became discouraged themselves, repeating that they just couldn’t remember what they had learned.  This likely is a reflection of the (ingrained) village belief that it is too late to learn to read and write for females older than 13 years, and/or a low level toxicity affecting short-term memory and concentration. They returned to class after Easter.


Update from the field: November 2009

The Tihueliske Education Program for Women continues to gain momentum with twenty women aged 14 to 40 years now attending three times per week. Classes are held three times per week, with each class lasting 1.5 hours, and led by two young educators in a small rented classroom. The women are divided into two groups attending at different times, and then subdivided again. They are advancing, some quickly! Adapting ideas from many sources and using many village photos, we continue to develop a hopeful, forward-looking curriculum that draws from the daily reality of village women, incorporates a focus on human rights and security, and allows many opportunities for women to imagine a better future.

Following several clarification meetings with representatives of INAE (National Institute for Adult Education), Tihueliske is an INAE Community Learning Centre. We are registering some children (10-14 years) and women into the INAE program so that they can begin the examination process to gain literacy and primary certificates. This registration can be time consuming and costly because many learners do not have birth certificates and other documents. All of the educators, in addition to their Saturday upgrading classes, are working through INAE modules together so that those without junior high school preparation can eventually gain this certificate.

This year Atzin is administering or providing scholarships for a total of 23 selected young people so that they can continue studying. The students range in age from 13 to 31 years with the majority being 15-17 years of age. Of these 23 people, 17 are women; six are male. Twenty are in junior high school; three women are studying fulltime outside of Tlamacazapa (one in accounting; one in nursing; one in laboratory sciences). This is a jump from the 15 scholarships given in 2008-2009. In addition, four young women are attending a haircutting and styling course daily during November and December and will be assisted in early 2010 to set up a small salon with teacher follow-up.