Atacama’s school radios collaborate in the aftermath of the floods in Northern Chile

February 2016- In order to support the reconstruction after the floods that occurred in March 2015 in the North of Chile, while seeking to promote the active participation of young people in community dialogue, students from the Atacama region learned radio broadcasting techniques to make their voice felt and to contribute to the reconstruction of their communities.

school radios in Atacama, Chile

A group of 64 students and 13 teachers from different cities and towns of the Atacama region in the North of Chile took part in a training programme around the development, production and broadcasting of radio content. The initiative was developed at the end of the 2015 school year within the framework of the program "Atacama returned to class", led by the Ministry of Education of Chile, in collaboration with the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean. The training workshops contributed to the support and reconstruction of the areas affected by the floods of last March, which provoked important human and material losses.

"Atacama returned to class" consists of workshops and other activities carried out in primary and secondary schools in the Atacama region, and is part of a greater effort undertaken by Chile to ensure that floods-affected citizens resume their lives. Within this context, in addition to the training, seven schools received the necessary technical equipment that will enable them, in 2016, to operate school radios that can contribute not only to the formal educational process but also to reinforcing values and skills such as teamwork, creativity, the rescue of identity, integration and community development.

The institutes that are part of this process are the following: Sara Cortez and Aliro Lamas schools in Diego de Almagro; Gaspar Cabrales and Angelina Salas schools in Chañaral; the Liceo Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez Tierra Amarilla, and the schools Manuel Rodríguez and Hacienda San Pedro in Copiapó. Moreover, the school Educator Arthur Alvear Ramos from Valle El Transito, in the municipality of Alto del Carmen, also participated in the training process thus strengthening a radio initiative already existing in the area.

The design and implementation of the training methodology for the school radio was developed by the NGO ECO Education and Communications, an institution with broad experience in the development and promotion of a model of community radio that gives back their voice to the communities, with emphasis on the reviving of their own words and on the critical analysis of the reality. This was well reflected in the discussions of the students and their teachers when they reviewed the media coverage given to the disaster, as well as when they envisioned and planned their school radios.

Juan Ortega, the project coordinator from the implementing NGO ECO, explained that "for the children who participated in the workshops it was a challenge understanding and positioning themselves in a radio context, because even though they belong to an audiovisual culture and have spontaneous abilities in creating stories and expressing  their reasoning, the radio is a medium that, due to their generation, they do not regularly use, or if they do so is because their parents or relatives listen to it. However (children) recognize that the communication process values their words and opinions. This will strengthen their life perspectives and reinforce their role in the education communities.

Ortega also added that the experience of school radios should be valued as a platform for horizontal relationships in the school communities, where the intergenerational dialogue becomes the engine for the development of educational content. In this way, as through a microphone, the school can dialogue with its surroundings, listening to itself and project a new role in the areas.

Paz Portales, Programme Coordinator from the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean, indicated that "the radios were introduced as a socio-educational resource that enables the development of knowledge, skills, competencies, attitudes and values in an entertaining and collaborative manner, which is relevant to the interests of the children and young people as well as to the reality of communities. They have facilitated the encounter between teachers and students, between the school and the community, being an important support for this long psychosocial reconstruction of the people who were affected by the flood and who are still living the consequences ".

The UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean enthusiastically received the news that this joint initiative undertaken with civil society and the Ministry of Education, which successfully created seven radio stations in 2015 in the Atacama region, will be extended in 2016 through the establishment of seven additional stations by national and regional authorities.

Listen to some of the radio contents from the workshops conducted in preparation for the school radios

Photo gallery, Flickr (UNESCO Santiago)

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