Panama's Early Childhood Education Model Through Women's Knowledge-Sharing Perspective



Organization of Mother-Teachers (OMMA)




Education, Migration, Indigenous rights, Youth and Child Development

Start Date:

June, 2018 - 2019

Project Summary


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.

In Indigenous communities, the poverty rate rises to a staggering 95%. Many families in Panamá lack stable employment and education opportunities, and are burdened by low wages, inadequate access to essential services, and poor nutrition.

The Madres-Maestras (Spanish for "Mother–Teachers") 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.

Through this project, Madres-Maestras will share its successful model of early childhood education with organizations and government institutions in Panamá's formal education sector. By compiling experiences and teaching practices, Madres-Maestras will continue to meet the current, pressing educational demands of the families they serve and expand its reach to the rest of Central America. Our goal is to nurture the needs of developing children living in some of the most extreme conditions of poverty.

Key Achievements

  • Hosting 12 Regional Meetings in Panamáwhere Madres-Maestras can contribute their knowledge, best practices, lessons learned and lived experiences at the community level.

  • Hosting an Inter-Provincial meeting for 150 members to articulate achievements and challenges experienced over the last five years in their territories.

  • Compiling best practices, experiences and lessons learned from 300 Madres-Maestras centres into a comprehensive report.

  • Sharing experiences with coordinators from Honduras and Costa Rica to explore expansion of Madres-Maestras centres to neighbouring countries in Central America.