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Narrating and rapping life: a project that promoted reading and writing with over-age students in eastern Cali.

Community radio and rapping became the methods to unite more than 25 children and adolescents with school, friends and family in the midst of the pandemic.

"Reading didn't really interest me, but with the Narrando y Rapeando la Vida (narrating and rapping life) project I loosened up a little bit, because to do radio I had to read the script many times and understand what we had written," is how Yelizabeth Vivas, a 14-year-old student motivated to improve her studies after her participation in this project supported by El Fondo LEO, recounted her experience.

Narrating and Rapping Life, is a strategy to promote reading and writing at school in the city of Cali. Students from the Humberto Jordán Mazuera Educational Institution, Villa Blanca, located next to one of the largest areas of displaced peoples, lacks adequate city services. In fact, there is not even access to potable water service in homes and most of the students live in neighborhoods of extreme violence.

"My students are teenagers, who are still in primary school. It was very difficult to connect with them because they do not have devices (computers/phones) or access to the internet at home. Their family conditions do not support the progression of their learning, so we took the school to the street in a community hut and in a small town square of the neighborhood” said the teacher, Jhon Jairo Ulloa, one of the creators of the Rapping and Narrating Life initiative.

Taking the teaching-learning processes out of the four walls of the classroom was the key for 14 adolescents and 14 children to get closer to their appropriate level of reading and writing in a country where reading is a "heavy burden", an activity that most people think is very boring.

Colombia is considered a nation that reads very little. According to the latest figures of the Colombian Book Chamber revealed in 2020, on average a Colombian reads 2.7 books per year and illiteracy still exists in the country.

This reading ability/level can even reach zero in the most impoverished sectors. That is why it was in eastern Cali that Professor Ulloa, better known as Jhon J., who is also a rapper, got together with the then director of the community radio station Oriente Estéreo Cali, Yeiffer Molina, to use rap music and community radio in the school setting, as flexible methodologies to connect children and adolescents with their learning, their school, their neighborhood, their families and to connect with each other, just when they were still locked up because of Covid-19.


The project began in January 2021 with activities ranging from reading stories, games alluding to the theme read, painting emotions and a tour of the neighborhood to learn to read the context.


According to Jennifer Quiñones, coordinator of the Cultural Entrepreneurship Center Library of Commune 13, when she was invited to participate in the project so that children and adolescents could get closer to reading, one thing became clear: "reading is more than putting letters together, that is why when the training was over they did not want to go home quickly".


At the same time, music, writing and radio workshops began. Julián Rodríguez, from the Hip Hop Peña Foundation, in charge of the project, created two rap songs with the boys and girls called Quiero vivir bien (I want to live well) and Somos gente buena (We are good people).


"It was important for them to use their experiences to create the songs, that's where writing came into play; but also music, because Maikel, one of the participants, used the guitar to make the base of the two songs and I supported them in organizing the verses they wrote," explained Professor Rodriguez.


The Narrando y Rapeando project impacted the lives of the participants because it sparked a greater interest in their learning. Several of them had never played musical instruments and had never used a microphone to make radio, telling their experiences and turning them into promotional messages or radio programs, giving them a place of recognition in school and with their families.


According to Yeiffer Molina, four promotional messages were created about reading, writing, coexistence and the project. Four radio programs were also produced that valued the experiences of children and adolescents as stories to tell: treatment at home, discrimination and bullying, the violence they experience in the neighborhood, and the situations they live with their families due to their impoverished conditions and lack of water. The productions were broadcast by the community radio station Oriente Estéreo Cali.


The Secretary of Education of the Cali Mayor's Office identified the initiative as an innovative proposal after the final event for the socialization of the results of the project and the productions made. The greatest gain of the proposal was that mothers became closer to their children by listening to the stories, songs, messages, seeing their achievements and their potential progress in school from Narrando y Rapeando.

Practicando el coro de la canción en el taller de música.jpg
Práctica sonora en el taller de radio.jpg
Reunión con madres de familia en la caseta comunal.jpg

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