Rosa Mariano, an active Life Team member from Zambezia Province, greets her neighbours. Photo: Rebecca J Vander Meulen

From: Footsteps 90

Articles on learning from others and stories and advice from around the world

Learning at a distance in Guatemala

Distance learning is a way of studying a course without attending classes in a fixed location. The course material and students’ coursework may be sent by post, emailed or provided on an internet platform. Tutors at the academic institution usually provide support by telephone, letter or email. This form of learning is ideal for those in more remote settings or who want to study alongside their everyday work. Here Gengly Marisol Gutiérrez, a social worker at Acción Médica Integral (AMI) San Lucas in Guatemala, tells us about her experience.

What course did you  study by distance learning?

The distance learning course was called ‘Promoting Child Participation’. 

What inspired you to take this course?

I wanted to learn more and to bring myself more up to date about the subjects that are addressed in the course and which relate to my own work. I’m passionate about everything to do with childhood and adolescence, themes which are central to our work at AMI San Lucas.

I was also interested in knowing more about the participation of Latin American children and adolescents within their homes, in education, in the community and in national life as a whole.

A view over the Guatemalan city of Antigua. Photo Jim Loring / Tearfund

A view over the Guatemalan city of Antigua. Photo Jim Loring/Tearfund

What did you learn?

Through the course I was able to learn about work done with children and adolescents in different countries and to think about how these experiences might be applied in my own country. I also gained up-to-date knowledge about children’s rights, especially relating to regional authorities and mechanisms used to implement these rights in Latin America.

Amongst other things, I learnt that children (both boys and girls) and adolescents are not only protected by the law, as we had always assumed, but they also have rights. This confirmed to me that participation is a right for all.

I learnt about the way children and adolescents participate in advisory councils and I was able to reflect on ‘adult to child’ and ‘child to child’ relationships. I looked at public policy on participation and the process of monitoring this participation. All the subjects were very interesting and practical.

Was it difficult being far away from your teachers?

This was not difficult, really. I loved the use of technology, it was so practical. However, on a few occasions there were small problems with the digital platform. The communication with my tutors was good and it worked smoothly. They facilitated the course pretty well and I definitely learnt a lot from them because they are professionals with a lot of experience in this area of work.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of doing a distance learning course?

I would advise them to do it! It is very practical but you do need to have the right attitude: a willingness to make a commitment and a sense of responsibility in order to complete the course. It can be so easy to accumulate work and then not do it efficiently! It is a question of being conscientious and of taking full advantage of the technology and resources available.

Gengly Marisol Gutiérrez studied by distance learning through the Inter-American Children’s Institute (Instituto Interamericano del Niño, la Niña y Adolescentes) www.iin.oea.org

Editor’s note: It is very important that you check that an institution is trustworthy before signing up for a course. Unfortunately there are dishonest institutions who will take money but fail to provide a course or accreditation on graduation. To help you to avoid such schemes, choose an institution which is accredited by a regional or international body. If possible try to talk to current or past students to hear about their experiences.

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