By Karina Tejada Campos
They are the early childhood education teachers. They are those who channel their efforts, their experience as women and mothers, and their calling to this profession, giving their all to a colossal task under working conditions that in Chile are somewhat precarious. It is they who have suffered from restrictions on academic training because their work is considered unimportant. Sometimes (or oftentimes), they commit themselves so heavily that the boundaries blur between their own reality and that of the children, who, as vulnerable beings, ask everything of them.
I joined them in a social responsibility program created by the Antofagasta Manufacturers’ Association, an extraordinary experience that made me a better professional and a better person. I crossed the desert to reach them, to a spot fertile with hope and challenges, finding them hungry for support, understanding, acceptance and re-enchantment.
I found my way to their children, to the stories, to the potential and also the needs of these kids, through women who had never taken part in what we technically refer to as continuing education. We came together to think about child development, attachment, and what it means to be vulnerable, in order to propose improvements to early stimulation and social skills, building expectations and a future for these boys and girls.
We came together to both hold back and share our emotions, to recognize them, to understand them and to place them—in a positive way—at the service of the greater good that is the children, for their right to receive a quality education, accompanied by women who are strengthened by their own personal development, in the effective and humanizing collective effort that builds and transforms more hopeful childhood realities.
There are more than a few difficulties in making preschools into places of significant, positive and happy experiences. Many of these difficulties are due to ignorance, good intentions that are poorly executed, or positive but random actions that get lost in the daily routine.
We work to combat despair in the face of neglectful parents—who not only fail to collaborate with these women but instead often complicate and harm their noble work—focusing on the strengths of the children and this unique task in terms of opportunities and experiences that they could generate in the lives of children.
We try to become enchanted once again with the task, despite institutions indifferent to our personal and professional needs, institutions that are not up to the national challenge that early childhood education signifies as the foundation of a healthy, just, and developed society.
Overcoming the neglect of these women is a priority, and learning from them is essential. Rebuilding alliances and revaluing their work is a necessary and pending task among the challenges for quality education that this country demands through the voices of its social movements. It must be a commitment on the part of all professionals dedicated to education in its different forms and a responsibility for all political and social stakeholders to fulfill the moral demand and rights obligation to children.
I write this as a gesture of gratitude to these wonderful women for one of the most enriching experiences I have lived as a mother and professional. I thank them for plucking me from my college classroom in order to get to know them, grow together, and make Chile a better place.
Karina Tejada Campos hails from Chile, where she works as a philosophy professor and educational psychologist. She holds a Master’s degree in education. Her article was selected as a finalist for the IDB’s Blogger Contest.