With an increasing need for English in business, higher education and an ever globalising world, the disadvantaged children of Buenos Aires are at risk of missing out on valuable language skills. This week, the communications team visited a small school in Pablo Nogues, working wonders to give every child the opportunity to thrive, learn and one day, be equipped with the skills to work in an international context, a multinational or just simply possess the knowledge to choose.
We traveled by a particularly noisy train from Retiro to the suburb along with two Finnish girls, who were starting their first day of volunteering and Monika, a Swiss lady, who bravely takes two weeks off her busy year to volunteer annually. We were met by Silvia, a particularly passionate, high spirited woman who is full of the kindness and soul that a place like this needs to attract the children into the school in the first place. She wears a sparkly jumper, which to me is indicative of her animated manner and the confidence she has in the project.
The children arrive after school for their evening activities and like any children of their age, some arrive hooked on their mobile phones, whilst others peer curiously at the new volunteers. Class begins and although the classrooms are basic and resources simple, the class begins with an air of focus and calm. There is not enough money in the pot to supply English teachers for these children, so they are taught via a mix of volunteers from abroad alongside the older pupils who are able to pass on their penny's worth. In this case, I am astounded by a girl of about 13 who runs the class, holds all the pupils' attention and is wise beyond her years.
I think back to my own job in a girls' school back home and wonder whether my pupils would take on this challenge as willingly or quite as efficiently. The idea that girls of her age can be given the opportunity to take on such a massive responsibility is a controversial one but it works. And everyone seems happy. They discuss the strange and questionable pronunciation of 'stomach ache' and the teenage helper simply shrugs her head and reassures pupils that exceptions are just part and parcel of learning a language.
It comforts me that there does not seem to be any filter when it comes to the students' questions and everyone seems relaxed, motivated and present. Monika is also at ease and has quickly adapted to the friendly atmosphere of this special school. It is a spring day and the sun pours into the classrooms; a universal approval for the creative teaching and learning that is taking place within these four walls.