Strengthening Education and Literacy in Panama

The outskirts of Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama.

The outskirts of Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama.

“Supporting youth during their formative years is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty.”

Despite being one of the wealthiest countries in Central America, poverty continues to be a pressing issue across Panama. As of 2017, the World Bank reported that 18.7% of Panamanians live in poverty, and a whopping 10.2% live in extreme poverty (on less than $2.12 per day). With poverty, comes sacrifice. As of 2010, the literacy rate in Panama was measured at 94%, ranking 54th in the world. We know from statistics provided by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), that women and girls are more likely to be illiterate than their male counterparts. From our work on the ground in Panama, we know this is true.

 
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Madres Maestras [Spanish for “Mother-Teachers”] is our local partner based out of San Miguelito, Panama City, Panama. The Madres-Maestras organization is a group of mothers, grandmothers, aunts, neighbours - and increasingly, fathers - from marginalized communities who recognize the importance of providing young children with stimulating educational experiences to nurture their health and growth. The organization supports early childhood development services that children from impoverished Indigenous populations in rural and urban Panamá would otherwise not have access to. Together, Horizons and Madres Maestras are hoping that access to early childhood education in marginalized communities will contribute to higher literacy rates, and give these youth a ‘leg up’ in life. Our ultimate goal is to break the cycle of poverty in some of Panama’s most impoverished and marginalized communities.

Horizons’ Executive Director Patricia Rebolledo (left) and Madres Maestra Educational Coordinator Maria G. (right) together at the Madres Maestras “jardin educativo” in San Miguelito, Panama City.

Horizons’ Executive Director Patricia Rebolledo (left) and Madres Maestra Educational Coordinator Maria G. (right) together at the Madres Maestras “jardin educativo” in San Miguelito, Panama City.

Through the voluntary cooperation of mothers, aunts, neighbours, and increasingly, fathers, communities across Panama have organized to create “jardines educativos” [roughly translating to Educational Kindergarten]. However, the people that come to drop off the kids at the “jardin” are strongly encouraged to stay and participate in the day’s activities alongside their children. This contributes to Madres Maestra’s core vision:

Every mother is a teacher; Every Father is a teacher.

While the next generation of Panamanian citizens learns how to read and write, their parents and family are next to them, learning how to become better parents and teachers. Creating a supportive family structure and stronger communities through early childhood education is one of the many ways Horizons and its partners across Central America and Mexico are working to end poverty and injustice in the region.

 
7-year old Alicia gave us a display of her 100% recycled dress that she made during her arts & crafts class with Madres Maestras.

7-year old Alicia gave us a display of her 100% recycled dress that she made during her arts & crafts class with Madres Maestras.

8-year old Arielly clapping along to a morning song and dance at the Madres Maestras community centre in San Miguelito, Panama.

8-year old Arielly clapping along to a morning song and dance at the Madres Maestras community centre in San Miguelito, Panama.

 
A young boy showing off his bird costume he made using 100% recycled materials at the Madres Maestra community centre.

A young boy showing off his bird costume he made using 100% recycled materials at the Madres Maestra community centre.

Arielly showing off her latest arts and crafts.

Arielly showing off her latest arts and crafts.


Our amazing work in Central America & Mexico is made possible through the generous donations from people like you. If you can, chip in to support our work today.


Daniel Quesada