Raul Collazos

Ashoka Fellow
Popayan, Colombia
Fellow Since 1996


This profile was prepared when Raul Collazos was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Raúl Collazos has created a rural educational model, "Reforest the Heart First," that provides opportunities for parents, teachers, children and members of the community to assume responsibility for education. The method at the center of his model involves bringing students, parents and teachers together to identify, design and implement development projects. Educational activities are then constructed around the project, contextualizing learning within a process of creative community problem solving. Because the projects tend to be geared strongly toward environmental restoration, Raúl's approach also raises environmental awareness throughout the community. Raúl has piloted the model in the violence-ridden region surrounding Medellín, where he has one independent model school linked with a dozen rural public schools that utilize aspects of the model. He runs teacher training programs from the model school, as well as having developed a course for teachers at the University of Medellín. Looking toward national expansion, he is seeking to integrate his approach selectively with the ministries of environment and education.
The principal benefit from his approach, according to Raúl, is transformed thinking and behavior of teachers and parents with respect to education. Where education was once seen as the way to impart skills that could enable children to obtain employment in the cities, the school is now seen as a powerful resource for uplifting the community. "The tangible benefits provided through the school-initiated project activities are one thing," says Raúl, "but the really major thing is the new mentality that has arisen. The campesinos now see education as something relevant to their daily lives." Among other things, the pilot experience around Medellín has produced the beginnings of a whole new curriculum for rural education that has been designed and written mainly by campesino parents and children.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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