The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools and organizations like Edify to rely on technology in ways we never have before. However, because of the growing education entrepreneurship in Panama, there is hope.
Over the past two years, our teams have found creative solutions to walk alongside school proprietors using technology. Edify has been virtually connecting with school owners for spiritual support, prayer, and online trainings almost daily. While hosting some of our online trainings, we found that schools from countries we didn’t operate in were requesting to participate. This led us to identify several countries that would largely benefit from Edify’s work. To be specific, Panama was at the top of the list.
Located in Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, sits Panama. Panama is home to 4.18 million people, and is a transcontinental country. It is a country covered in volcanic mountains, that extend from its Costa Rican border all the way to Colombia. On the other hand, Panama is also known to have one of the worst education systems in the world.
Strides have been taken to change this in recent years. With 87% of school-aged children in Panama enrolled in public school things had begun to look up, however, dropout rates continue to be a defining issue.
Challenges in Rural Areas
Dropout rates are most common in rural areas of Panama. It is in these locations where a students’ ability to physically attend and stay in school is challenging. Many students walk long distances to get to school. Then when the rainy season comes, some stop attending altogether due to dangerous rivers that frequently flood and block their paths.
Agricultural work is a common profession for many rural families. Often parents pull their children out of school in order to help their families work and sustain livelihoods.
Another barrier to quality education in Panama is the problematic infrastructures of schools. In Panama, “only 59% of primary schools and 63% of middle schools have potable water. Electricity was only available at 67% of primary schools,” (Oxford Business Group).
Urban Areas Aren’t Immune to Barriers
Classrooms in urban Panama also tend to be rundown and overcrowded. Many schools have adopted shorter school days to aid the overflow of students. Some ideas have been to have a handful of students attending class in the morning, and others in the afternoon.
While this solution helps overcrowding, it has had an overall negative effect on students’ quality of education. Lack of well-trained teachers, or teachers altogether, is also a common issue that halts educational progress.
Although education reform has been highlighted the last few years in Panama, there is still a long way to go.
Meeting the Need
Edify heard the need presented by teachers in our online trainings. After completing a feasibility study in Panama and listening to where the Lord was leading, we began operations in November of 2021. Because of the Lord’s great leading, we have already appointed our Country Director, Arcky Salgado. Arcky comes from a long line of educators and feels called to the mission of Edify. She also has a true heart for education entrepreneurship.
“It fills me with joy to be the daughter of two educators and to be able to positively impact Panamanian education. I have a calling to serve with the mission of transforming the lives of students through Christian education. I join Edify’s mission with great commitment to serve and enthusiasm,” Arcky shared.
Despite the many challenges Panama’s education system faces, there is still great hope for the future. With Edify’s expansion into Panama, we are ensuring teachers and leaders are trained and equipped to deliver quality Christ-centered education. An education with a biblical worldview can transform students, communities and nations. Schools now have opportunities to take part in training, loan capital, and education technology and turn dreams of transformation into a reality.
Arcky confidently states, “I understand that changes begin with small gestures, and no matter how small my contribution might be, I am convinced that God can do wonders for the children of my country.”
To learn more about our work in Panama, click here.