I am a lecturer at ESEC The Coimbra High School of Education and lead a program in rural areas called Letters for Life with adults learning to read and write, mainly women and older people who live in villages.
The andragogic flautist
This story has been written with Carlos Ribeiro – Portuguese Ambassador of EPALE
If you cross paths with her at one of the entrances of ESEC, Escola Superior da Educação de Coimbra (Coimbra Higher Education School - Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra), you will certainly not see her playing the flute. And it is with music that, together with Dina Soeiro, we will explore another History of Confined Navigators.
According to Dina Soeiro, adult literacy training activities when programmed on the basis of active methodologies encourage participants to move, interact and build together. These approaches, however, require space and adequate logistics. The library of the Professional and Technical School of Cantanhede where the first sessions were held were too small, despite the inspiring company of the books. The hosts and local partners of the Letras prá Vida (Letters for Life) project quickly found an alternative.
Covid-19 puts an end to the bar
Let's go to the bar instead! The bar was a space that fit well with the profile of other activities of the project such as the Letters, Keys and Music Workshops, in addition to the social activities themselves! But COVID-19 broke out in Portugal and training was suspended.
Health comes first
“The workshops have been put on hold! What do we do now? I can’t believe it! We were so excited to start the spring edition of the literacy workshops! But health comes first”, said Dina Soeiro wisely. Consequently, everyone went home.
The phone rings
“We started calling around to check if the workshop participants were doing well. How are you doing? What do you need? We can help. After a few days, the participants were calling us instead!”, recalled the Coordinator of Letters.
Grandchildren in the town squares
“Just a call to say that everything is fine! I'm a bit upset as my grandchildren say they can't come here, but don't worry about me. It was well worth learning how I can see them on my phone. Now I see them even more! I see them every day in the square!”. The caller thus confirms that while physical distance was a reality, social distance is not!
Imaginary hugs over Zoom
For Dina Soeiro the surprises only came at the beginning. “At the evening class, the students who were working as well as studying were exhausted. Reconciling their studies and work at nursing homes, if difficult in the past, is now almost impossible. Even from a distance, I felt the overwhelming weight of their emotional and physical burden. If I were in a face-to-face class, I would have given them a hug. It is not something I put in the summary, but it is essential. But I couldn't give them a hug. Instead, I asked one of them, a flautist, to create a beautiful moment for us through her music. Her playing made the distance seem less that night”.
An unbalanced balance
“It is possible to manage, more than pedagogically or andragogically, the very delicate balance between fear, exhaustion, hope and the desire to continue to live, to study and, for some of them, to fulfil their dream of getting a higher education degree.
The semester is ending, these women will fulfil their dreams, the training will continue even if only in September and at a distance, and the workshops will return even if we don't know when. We will return”, concluded Dina, with her usual optimisim.
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