Knowledge is Power in Isolated Communities

This principle is at the heart of our Technology and Training for Quality and Equality in the Bosawas project, funded by the Fund for Innovation and Transformation (FIT), where we are enhancing the capacity of local schools to deliver quality education. Earlier in March, we distributed 60 Chromebooks along with digital libraries in four communities to enhance teacher training. Indigenous facilitators and teachers were trained in how to use the Chromebooks, the Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning (RACHEL) and the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) created to make professional development accessible.

For many of us, our current state of self-isolation is new and novel, and yet we remain connected to each other and to the latest information available. Communities already living in isolation, however, are vulnerable to lack of information and knowledge, particularly in times of emergencies. In these low-resource areas, the COVID-19 crisis could have a deep impact in part because public service announcements are more difficult to relay. Information provided online is only accessible to those with internet access. Information provided in written form is only accessible to those who can read and write (and is often not available in the native language).

The Indigenous Community Facilitators employed by Change for Children’s Technology and Training for Quality and Equality in the Bosawas project are now also working to protect their communities from COVID-19. Working from four community base-camps along the upper Coco River in Nicaragua’s BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve, these young people mobilized to distribute soap, bleach, hand sanitizer, sanitary wipes, and educational posters and brochures to local Miskito indigenous communities.

Community facilitators also trained adults and children by demonstrating proper hand washing, hygiene and sanitation techniques and conducted household visits in the indigenous villages that populate Nicaragua’s northern border. In addition to the Miskito language translations currently underway for the MOOC teacher training as part of our Technology project, our facilitators are also now working on translating information on COVID-19 prevention strategies into Miskito to further bridge the knowledge gap.

Our local community facilitators, already trained in the use of laptops and the digital libraries recently deployed  as part of the Technology & Training project and well-versed in the process of leading teachers through the teacher training MOOC, are now all enrolled in the Pan-American Health Organization’s COVID-19 Training MOOC. As they progress through the on-line modules (which are designed to be easily accessible in areas with weak cell signals), they will learn how to recognize the basic symptoms of respiratory infection; how to evaluate the risk of infection from COVID-19, and basic health and hygiene practices to protect against infection from COVID-19.

When water, supplies, and social distance are scarce, knowledge is power.

In The Field Central America and the Caribbean Nicaragua Education Health Indigenous Peoples