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Pedalling to teach: A young teacher pedals daily to teach his students

The illiteracy rate in that area is around 42 per cent.The illiteracy rate in that area is around 42 per cent.The illiteracy rate in that area is around 42 per cent.The illiteracy rate in that area is around 42 per cent.

A young man, geared with a protective face mask, has a new best friend-an adult tricycle. For this, is his vehicle to ensure his sixth-grade students don’t miss out on their lessons in the middle of global COVID-19 pandemic.

The 27-year-old Guatemalan teacher Gerardo Ixcoy, also known as Lalito 10, has put in all his savings to buy a second-hand adult tricycle, which he has converted into a mobile classroom. Why? He has done all this to address the challenges of remote learning in the Santa Cruz del Quiche farming community in Guatemala’s western highlands.

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It all started somewhere in mid-March when global pandemic led to the schools being closed across the globe including Guatemala.

When Ixcoy realized there were challenges to remote learning in this farming community in Guatemala’s western highlands, the idea of a classroom-on-a-trike idea was born.

However, it was not that easy. “I tried to get the children their worksheets, sending instructions via WhatsApp, but they didn’t respond,” he told Financial Express Online.

The response was not encouraging, as the parents did not have money to buy data packages, or download Zoom or other apps for attending online classes. The illiteracy rate in that area is around 42 per cent, and only 13 per cent of families/homes have an internet connection. And the phones these families don’t have all the features required for a virtual class.

The mobile classroom which has plastic sheets which help in protecting the teacher and student from the virus transmission. There is a whiteboard and for operating the audio player he uses for lessons is powered by a small solar panel.

Twice a week, he tries to visit each of his students and to give the sixth-grade individual instructions. And, to reach them he pedals through the cornfields of Santa Cruz del Quiche. For the children, the classes break up the monotony of weeks in quarantine. Due to strict Social Distancing rules in place, the young teacher welcomes his students with the Indian `Namaste’ greeting.

Once he finishes visiting his students, late afternoon, Ixcoy pedals home to beat the curfew. Not only is he a teacher, but he also tries to help those who cannot afford food. Along with his father (who has taught him all about farming), they grow corn on a small piece of leased land as a source of income. Gerardo Ixcoy is a qualified Elementary School teacher.

The Guatemalan teacher Gerardo Ixcoy talks about his mobile classroom with Huma Siddiqui. Following are excerpts:

What gave you the idea to use tricycle into a mobile classroom to reach the remote areas in your community?

The idea comes from my love and passion for my children. I understand what their current situation is. Many of them do not have the economic means or access to technology materials such as a computer, mobile, printer and internet. It is also difficult to expect that the children are self-taught as many of them lack the necessary support and motivation to encourage them to study. I am inspired to support them, and I do not want that anybody drops out of school.

Are you spending money from your pocket or is the government helping you?

I have been spending money from my own pocket. I utilized family savings for an amount of Q. 700.00 (Approximately USD 100). My wife and I looked for a second-hand tricycle. I had to make some modifications and adapt it to the ideas that popped up in my imagination. But I was left with no more money to spend, so I decided to approach my brother and offer him a deal. He owns a metalworks shop and we both agreed that I would work with him for two weeks in exchange for the materials I required to finalize the mobile classroom project. He agreed to it and that is how it happened. I am presently working for a private school and I expect that may get a government job in the future.

Who are these children you are teaching? Please tell more about your teaching style. What all you teach? How many children are there?

These children are 10 children who have reached Sixth Grade (Elementary) and are between the ages of 11-12. I teach them subjects like Mathematics, Communication and Language. These lockdown periods have been very stressing for the children and it is important that they perform some physical activity. That is why I have implemented 10 minutes of physical exercise in my school planning. I can do this with the aid of a solar panel that was gifted by one of my brothers-in-law. I managed to connect a small speaker and now I start my classes with music to motivate my children during the exercise routine and improve their health. In the future, I would like to incorporate a multimedia projector to show them videos and educational documentaries.

You are also helping the poor who have no food. How do you help them?

It would be great to help these children. At this time, I do not have the economic means to support them and I only teach them up to the doors of their homes. Someday, I would like to establish a school to support poor students, but now I can only work hard to achieve it.

Internet connectivity/online classes are becoming a big problem in countries especially in Central America and in countries like Bolivia. Would you like to share your ideas with others who would like to share this style of teaching with others?

Internet connection is not the only problem children face, they also lack support and orientation due to shortage of time or because both the parents are illiterate. I would love to share my ideas! I would share these with those people who are keen on supporting those children who really need help.

What are your future plans?

I want to open a private school and I want to teach anyone who comes to be, children, or adults. And to visit India someday.

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