By Jeimmy Paola Sierra
Medellin, Colombia, Feb 14 (EFE).- A cellphone used to be the only electronic device in the Mosquera Murillo household, a coveted item that Brayan and his sister Leidy Marcela would fight over.
But that changed last week thanks to the “Computadores Futuro” program, an initiative aimed at delivering hundreds of thousands of laptops to public school students in this northwestern Colombian city.
“This means a lot to us. We’re displaced people and we don’t have access to a computer,” 39-year-old Flor Mirian Murillo told Efe after she and her two children picked up a pair of laptops at the La Macarena Events Center, a former bullring that is now mainly used as a concert venue.
“I’d get upset because she always wanted the cellphone,” Brayan said of his sister, a ninth-grade student who vows to use her computer for subjects like technology and entrepreneurship at one of the beneficiary schools, Antonio Derka Santo Domingo.
Flor Mirian and her family relocated to the Medellin hillside neighborhood of Manantiales from her native Belen de Bajira – a mineral-rich but poor district on the border of the departments of Antioquia and Choco – in hopes of forging a better life for her children.
She said she and her husband, a construction worker, have sought to prioritize the education of their two children. “Whatever little I had, I’d give them so they could go to the Internet cafe and do research.”
But thanks to the “Computadores Futuro” initiative, Leidy Marcela, Brayan and thousands of other children now have their own Toshiba Dynabook Tecra A40-G with a 256 GB hard drive and 14-inch HD screen.
Medellin’s education secretary, Alexandra Agudelo, said the project addresses a pressing problem in a city with just one computer per seven students and is part of a long-term plan to transform education.
The first delivery has put 5,500 laptops into the hands of students in the Comuna 1 district, but the goal is to eventually push that number up to 200,000 city-wide.
“This will be a turning point … bridging the gaps in the use of technology and creating a lot of opportunities for young people. They’ll have more possibilities to connect, to link up to this globalization,” the principal of the Institucion Educativa Guadalupe secondary school, Wualis Arroyo, told Efe.
Of that facility’s 1,580 students, 240 of them currently have a computer at home.
For his part, Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero says the “Computadores Futuro” program kicked off in Comuna 1 because of its high levels of inequality and that plans are in the works to bring fiber-optic connectivity to every corner of the city, including the poorest neighborhoods.
Technology instruction is now firmly established in Medellin, which has modified its pedagogical model to further promote science and research.
Then-Mayor Federico Gutierrez declared Medellin a STEM-H (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Health sciences) Territory in 2017, and at present 84 percent of the city’s official educational institutions offer intermediate technical training and have become training grounds in the fields of information and communications technology (ICT) and robotics. EFE