When Lili Pimentel, a third-year student at Montemorelos University in Mexico, had to stay home in her city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, in Chiapas, and do distance learning early last year, she and her family noticed a great need in her community.
“While businesses, organizations, and schools adapted without a problem to the virtual new normal, many families [being] affected by the financial strain of the pandemic, and the lack of resources and internet at home, caused a lot of school dropouts,” Pimentel said. Pimentel, a third-year student in the communication and media program at Montemorelos, said she and her parents weren’t surprised that many families did not have internet access nor the proper devices for online schooling for their children.
They came up with a project to tutor school-aged children in their home. They set apart a special room to teach the children.
Chiapas’s Educational Administration System reported that at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, more than 36,000 students at the basic and upper educational levels were not registered in the system. Only 24.6 percent of homes in Chiapas have internet access.
How the Project Came About
“The idea came about when the pandemic began and we saw through the window many children who were playing outside,” Obel Pimentel, Lili’s father, said. “We decided to bring them to the house to teach them how to read and write.” Both of Lili’s parents are employees at the Adventist-operated Linda Vista University. Her father is a professor and her mother, Juanita, is an accountant. Both have been working from home.
After speaking to the parents of several children, they began teaching five to seven primary-school children ages 6 to 9 in July 2020. “They come to the house twice a week for an hour and a half, or sometimes for two hours, to study reading, writing, and math,” Lili said. “We play educational videos too, videos on values, Bible stories, alphabet songs, and number songs for the younger ones.”
Math lessons are taught by Juanita, while Lili’s father teaches reading and leads in interactive activities. Writing, educational videos, values, songs, and any other area that the children request are led by Lili.
A Family Undertaking
It’s a family undertaking, Lili said. “To respect the social distancing regulations, we can only have a few children at home, but we use masks, and they use their masks to be part of the weekly lessons,” Lili added. She attributes her experience working with the Doulos youth ministries, which oversees the Adventurer and Pathfinder clubs on the Montemorelos campus, for the initiative and teaching style.
The first segment of each lesson begins with media, where children have the opportunity to see a short video, sing songs, and go into reading and writing, Lili explained. They then go to games, where they review vowels and numbers, and the session ends with a small gift to motivate them to return the next lesson day.
“I think this is how we put in practice the church’s ‘I Will Go’ initiative, because it is reaching a need, as an opportunity to educate, but also using each lesson, song, or video to teach children Bible stories about Jesus,” Lili said.
Making Time to Serve
For Lili’s mother, Juanita, there is more than enough time to serve during the pandemic. “If we organize ourselves at home, we can get our academic or work activities done so that we have enough time to help children who aren’t going to school,” Juanita said.
“The vision for this project toward the future is for children to obtain more knowledge, and when they return to school, they can be more able because of the schooling they have done in this project,” Obed Pimentel said.
While they still study and work from home, the Pimentels will continue to teach the children, they said.
“Chiapas was not ready for this virtual mode, but we are prepared to serve and implement this kind of educational project,” Lili said.
Lili Pimentel contributed to this report.