Colourful banners and beaming smiles from animated students eager to try their English skills welcomed us to the college and together we shared the… breakfast they had prepared.
Funded by a Belgian charity and in its third year of operation the college presents as a three storey buildings, a refectory, a dormitory/admin building and a classroom complex. The secondary education offered to the students follows a particular Belgian model which teaches the curriculum within the context of agriculture, with emphasis on the development of the whole person and the development of collaborative and social skills. The Piauí Education Board have validated the curriculum which must include the study of a range of subjects which contributes to a high drop out level. The state pays the teacher’s salaries but no other costs. The academic year is divided into blocks of two weeks, students live at the college for two weeks and must bring food for two weeks and pay a minimal ammount to cover utility costs. Sleeping accommodation is very stark just matrasses laid on the concrete floors and there are no lockers or chairs. Classrooms too are stark ,ancient desks but no evidence of any teaching/learning resourceses. During the two weeks at home the students have practical activites to undertake and must present back to their fellow students on their return.
Breakfast over we toured the college and the students, who had returned specially for our visit, introduced themsleves in English. Martin can be hugely proud of what he has achieved in teaching English but also in the relationship he has developed with the students, the warm regard for each other is blatant. One of the students spoke of the difference that Martin is making and asked that more volunteers be made available. Again we left the College energised by the enthusiasm and fortitude of the students and their teachers.