Closer to Our Communities in 2021


Pencils of Promise
March 5, 2021

Franz Vargas, Guatemala Programs Manager | Vivi Tzul Pérez, Guatemala Learning & Evaluation Manager

Photo description: A caregiver in Guatemala holds a child as a community gathers at a school for an inauguration ceremony | Photo credit: Amanda Brown

The education system in Guatemala was not prepared to suffer the impact of COVID-19 adjustments. The pandemic forced everyone to rethink education delivery and create response plans that allow us to continue providing quality education even in atypical environments. Therefore, the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MSPAS) and the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) responded to the pandemic as follows.

The MSPAS created an Alert Board which is a system that serves to guide municipalities by colors (green, yellow, orange and red) according to the number of infections of the virus registered in each place. The measures are not the same throughout the country since the board is based on a differentiated treatment for each municipality and the situation of each municipality is to be revised every two weeks.

Alerts are defined as follows:

RED ALERT – MAXIMUM: It is represented by four red circles and will be defined when new cases during the last two weeks are more than 55 per 100 thousand inhabitants or the positive results of the SARS-CoV-2 tests  exceed 20% .

ORANGE ALERT – HIGH: It will be represented by three orange circles and will be defined when  new cases during the last two weeks are between 25 and 54 per 100 thousand inhabitants or the positive results of the SARS-CoV-2 tests represent between 15 – 20%.

YELLOW ALERT – MODERATE: It will be represented by two yellow circles and will be defined when new cases during the last two weeks are between 15 and 24 per 100 thousand inhabitants or the positive results of the SARS-CoV-2 tests are between 5 –  14%.

GREEN ALERT – NEW NORMALITY: It will be represented by a green circle and will be defined when new cases during the last 2 weeks are less than 15 per 100 thousand inhabitants or the positive results of the SARS-CoV-2 tests are less than 5%.

COVID-19 Alert Table developed and provided by the Guatemalan government

MINEDUC determined through a Ministerial Agreement that education for all educational levels and sectors will be hybrid, meaning that students will receive education at school, from home or a combination of the two. This depends on the Alert Board and three other basic requirements that each school must meet to start hybrid education:

  1. An endorsement from the local educational authorities indicating that the school has access to water and the necessary infrastructure for the implementation of the sanitation protocols established by the MINEDUC.
  2. Appointment of a school health monitor, who is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the corresponding protocols in the school.
  3. Prepare an institutional protocol based on the protocols established by MINEDUC for the proper management of a health emergency in the school.

Taking into consideration the ongoing government regulations and after evaluating the 2020 programmatic implementation in the schools, Pencils of Promise reshaped the programmatic focus for 2021 based on the main insight provided by teachers and community leaders during the end of year interviews. 

Photo description: A teacher in Guatemala leads a lesson at the front of a classroom | Photo credit: Amanda Brown

In 2020, teachers kept learning with workshop videos sent through WhatsApp and phone coaching sessions; however, they mentioned that they weren’t able to replicate that knowledge with their students and that they would like us to help them reach more students during COVID-19. Community leaders helped us spread the word about our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Teacher Support (TS) programs with parents; however, they were not capable of (because of time or phone signal) sharing the full information with all parents. At the end of our Community Training contingency plan they asked us to be more present in the community and assist in finding strategies to train more parents. In this way we could have a greater impact in students’ education at home. 

After analyzing our support lessons from 2020, we realized that we were not bringing the programs home to the students effectively. Therefore, we made our mission in 2021 to develop new and creative strategies that allow us to work closer with our students, as well as with teachers, parents and community leaders. So, this year we will implement the following strategies:

WASH and TS Programs 

  • Workshops: aimed at teachers five times a year, carried out virtually via Zoom to foster topics on water, sanitation, hygiene, literacy and social-emotional learning. 
  • Coaching Sessions/WASH Engagements: aimed at teachers six times a year, carried out virtually or in-person depending on the Alert Board for each school.
  • Principal Coaching Sessions: aimed at school principals four times a year, carried out virtually or in-person depending on the Alert Board for each school. 
  • Teacher projects: aimed at teachers three per year and serving as evidence of the work done throughout the year. 

Builds Program

  • Repairs: based on guaranteeing the creation of comfortable spaces where our students can enjoy a quality education and the functionality of our TS and WASH programs.
  • Maintenance: focuses on ensuring the proper use of the infrastructure and furniture of our school, in addition to establishing the processes to provide adequate maintenance and sustainability infrastructure for the school.

Community Engagement

  • Community leadership trainings: aimed at community leaders with leadership, management and sustainability topics.
  • Parent coaching network: aimed at members of the community that will be in charge of training parents about active participation in education and follow up with “Student Guides” at home.

Learning & Evaluation

  • Interviews to teachers, students and parents (in person or phone call)
  • Quiz for teachers (via WhatsApp)
  • Teacher observations and WASH observations (if feasible)
  • Literacy assessment for students (if feasible)

New intervention strategies in response to COVID-19

Student Guides 

A strategy that aims to reach the students three times a year so they can improve their literacy, social-emotional and WASH skills from home and put them into practice. 

PoP Cars

It is a strategy that aims to reach the communities three times a year to read to children. The cars will deliver the student guides and collect some activities (included in previously delivered guides), which will be shared with children with other communities .

Programmatic Campaigns

The programmatic campaigns consist of creating and publishing videos, images and texts with informative and programmatic content on WASH, TS, Builds and Community Engagement. The campaigns will be published on each school’s Facebook group by the Pencils of Promise team.

Programmatic Banners

It consists of installing banners with messages or short phrases with content from our programs. They will be placed at strategic points in communities.

PoP Facebook Groups

This strategy consists of each school creating a group on Facebook. This group will be made up of: school principal, teachers, parents and community leaders. These groups will be used to:

  • Share a Facebook live with information about programs and courses in general.
  • Share relevant information to the community.
  • Publish the activities carried out by the students.

PoP Story Reading on Facebook

A story reading program that will be broadcast live through the PoP Guatemala Facebook page on Monday through Saturday, from 7:00 to 7:20 pm.

Our new intervention strategies will bring us closer to our communities while providing quality education!