Fellow Since 1998
This profile was prepared when Arturo Muñoz was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Arturo's educational model deals with the inefficiencies inherent in the current public education system, by directly managing the aggression of young children, particularly those whose lives involve a significant amount of time spent on the street due to their disadvantaged backgrounds. The basis of his model is respect for children's need to release energy before attempting to teach them formal subjects. In order to break the cycle of violence they face growing up in war-torn Colombia, Arturo's model allows children to express themselves freely, and even aggressively, if necessary. Doing so also opens them to the learning process. Disadvantaged youth are often put to work at an early age and are only allowed to play once they are finished with their work. Strategically designed games play a critical role in allowing the children to conduct themselves autonomously, presenting new engaging ways to learn, developing cognitive skills, and teaching students the importance of cooperation. Unlike teachers in traditional Latin American schools, the educators in Arturo's model are not afraid to allow their students freedom of action and expression. Rather than reprimanding students for "excess" energies, they provide outlets for them. Instead of disciplining aggressive students, they re-channel their energies toward productive purposes and rehabilitation. The educators demonstrate tremendous affection towards the children. The open, caring, and respectful environment that they create enables students to feel comfortable, to discover things for themselves and to truly learn, providing them with the necessary tools and strength to overcome their disadvantaged backgrounds and the violence that pervades their communities. Whereas street children are often sent unwilling by their families or court orders to enter state-run rehabilitation programs, Arturo's model is completely voluntary. In state programs, children face strict rules and little freedom to express themselves. Arturo's educational program maintains a higher retention and success rate than that of state programs. His strategically designed system of games and activities addresses the specific needs of at-risk street children. Without such specialized intervention these children risk entering a permanent life on the street.