My name is Miquel Alandete. I was born and live in Valencia. Although I have tried, I have never been able to move away for long from my Mediterranean sea and its coastal mountains. I am 51 and I have worked at the Picassent-Valencia adult prison school EPA Presentación Sáez since 2016. I am a language teacher and, even though these last few years I have been a member of the prison school staff, in the past I have worked as a teacher trainer, multiligual consultant, educational adviser, cultural promoter, translator and interpreter. I also love cycling.
I have been involved in several European Educational programmes in the past. My current school has designed an exciting Erasmus+ project and we learned about EPALE as a resource to find partners and resources. EPALE has turned out to be a very useful resource for us.
On 14 March 2020, the Spanish government decreed the state of alarm throughout the country. After several weeks of strict measures imposed by the national and regional governments, the Spanish lockdown was lifted. Covid-19 has hit us hard but Spain is starting to recover and get back on track. Like the rest of Spain’s public schools, ours is trying to cope with everything going on and deal with our teaching provision as best we can.
For some time, all public educational activities, at all stages, were suspended. EPA Presentación Sáez, as a public adult school inside the prison of Valencia, was also affected by this measure. Contact between teachers and students in Spain has been possible through digital platforms only, which requires the use of the Internet or mobile phones.
Inmates in Spain do not have access to these resources, so teacher-student contact was impossible.
From 21 April 2020, the Valencian educational administration enabled or provided digital platforms so that teachers could meet online and even carry on with their lessons on the platform. These kinds of lessons are impossible in Spanish prisons, but prison teachers could meet and work online.
As has been the case in many prisons around the world, school inmates in Valencia were afraid of Covid’s spread in Valencia and we could feel their fear and apprehension. Teachers and prison officers could spread the virus inside the prison.
Even though it can be assumed that these measures imposed by our government had little impact on our students’ lives, already deprived of liberty, many of them did not come to terms with what was in practice a double lockdown: life in prison in a region with strict confinement and surveillance measures.
At the end of April, the Spanish penitentiary institution allowed prison teachers to access school prisons so that we could provide learning material to students. Since then, teachers of the same levels or stages met and coordinated periodically. We designed and developed extension and reinforcement educational materials to revisit and strengthen contents given before the Covid-19 outbreak. These materials were distributed to students of different levels through teachers or inmates working at the prison library (we call them ‘library ushers’), who helped us to carry on with our educational provision without putting our students’ lives at risk. When distributing and providing the material we naturally tried to minimise contact between teachers and students as much as possible and thus avoid contagion.
The curriculum materials we provided allowed students to work, review and reinforce contents and skills acquired during the school term before lockdown. Library ushers collected these materials and handed them back to the school teachers so that we could assess and correct them and provide feedback.
As shown before, academic contact with the students has been maintained.
One of our main goals was to avoid our students from feeling, or having the impression, that they were being abandoned.
The procedure also allowed relevant reinforcement of content and skills previously acquired.
On 1 June 2020, the Valencian Community entered the so-called Phase 2, which allowed face-to-face teaching only in small-sized groups for students of higher levels. Unfortunately, the Spanish penitentiary institution did not allow this procedure because it would have meant that inmates from different modules or sections had met together. However, teachers were allowed to provide individual tutoring for these students, so we designed a coordinated time schedule in order to visit students and provide academic guidance and counselling in their modules.
After some weeks trying to find a way out, we have the feeling that our contribution during Covid-19 has gone beyond education.
It is true that all students are special. Ours are special students learning in a very special school in special and hard times. We also feel like we are special teachers too.
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