Fundacion Empresarial para el Desarrollo Educativo

Children coping with violence to build peace in El Salvador

Lead Organization

Fundacion Empresarial para el Desarrollo Educativo

Antiguo Cuscatlan, Departamento de San Salvador, El Salvador

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

In El Salvador, over decades preceded by a civil war in the 80s, children have systematically faced increasing violence in their schools and communities. This combines with low economic growth, social inequity and Government’s weaknesses. Some children stay and others migrate. Many who stay or return do not manage stress or trauma produced by adversity. FEPADE, a private foundation, seeks to strengthen emotional skills to help children cope with violence and build peace. As a pivot, we’ll use Zippy’s Friends, an evidence-based complementary education program, develop an adapted model, and scale it to impact at least 1,000 elementary schools, 20% of the country’s public education system. Informed by evidence, we’ll train teachers and principals, improve school climate, orient parents and involve local stakeholders to enhance children’s SEL. To maximize impact, we’ll articulate with the national curriculum and share our experience with the Central America’s Northern Triangle and beyond.

Problem Statement

Salvadoran children face violence in their schools, homes and communities [15]. Violent experiences include aggression from adults (even abuse), bullying from peers and gangs’ destructive behaviors. Children do not necessarily develop competencies to cope with violence; furthermore, there are no systematic, evidence-based, education programs to develop those competencies in public schools or proper support at home.El Salvador is one of the most violent non-war countries in the world [16]. This is rooted in both social conflict and weak development: a civil war (in the 80s), a progressive expansion of gangs over the last two decades, an unbalanced economic growth leading to high levels of poverty, a fragile offer of social services worsened by corruption. All these factors have destroyed cultural and social fabrics and combine to produce despair, migration or new forms of violence, where children suffer impact silently [4]. Many Salvadorans, however, have decided to stay, become resilient or even behave with solidarity. They are an asset as they have taken care of their families or worked for establishing a better nation.Public schools are key institutions to leverage transformation of children, their homes and communities, both for the present and the future. More specifically, teaching practices, family support and stakeholder’s synergy can lead to children’s learning of social and emotional skills to cope with violence, activate constructive relationships, become productive and build social cohesion in communities and society. Local transformation with and global vision is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Solution Overview

We’ll use Zippy’s Friends, an evidence-based complementary program for emotional learning, as a pivot to develop and scale an adapted strategy for SEL in El Salvador’s public schools. Designed the by Partnership for Children [17], Zippy’s Friends helps children develop competencies to cope with difficulties and stress, communicate with others, and build resilience. It uses materials and methodologies for schools, teachers and students (aged 5 to 12).Implemented by FEPADE since 2012 [3], Zippy’s Friends has reached early-grade children in 30 Salvadoran public schools. Our experience (enriched also by other projects aimed at improving education quality and preventing violence) constitutes a basis to enhance SEL outcomes for our children, in partnership with the private sector, the Government and international partners.Our adapted SEL strategy and resources (including use of ICT) will be scaled into El Salvador’s public school system, particularly in preschool and primary levels. We’ll be driven by CASEL’s framework, which highlights five key competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making [1].Shaped by a whole school approach, our intervention will develop a Leaning Community and articulate with the national curriculum.Our solution will have direct impact on 150,000 boys and girls enrolled in 1,000 public schools that represent 20% of El Salvador’s preschool and primary education system. We’ll directly engage teachers (10,000), principals, parents and key stakeholders to maximize SEL outcomes of targeted children. We’ll monitor progress and generate evidence to learn from implementation and disseminate our knowledge and experience in Central America and internationally.

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