Tatiana Henao Zuluaga is passionate about social transformation. She believes in developing people and communities, in working with and for the people, in connecting ideas, allies and resources to produce innovative results that contribute to society. She has over 10 years’ experience in public and private organizations, leading social development, food security, and quality education programs aimed at various stakeholders.
Félix y Susana is a program implemented by Fundación SURA, an organization that 50 years ago started to write its history with the objective of improving education conditions in Colombia and other regions in Latin America and having an impact on the harmonious development of society.
Our aim is to improve the quality of education by creating meaningful learning experiences that will last for life. This is done using education processes that go beyond the classroom and reach other venues which, although not necessarily school settings, are educational in themselves. Thus, they require articulation between the cognitive, the social, and the emotional. We also value the power of education and knowledge as a tool to generate equality and autonomy, which are the bases for transformation and an undisputed path to achieve territorial competitiveness.
Origins of Félix y Susana
In 2006, the United Nations published its world report on violence against children showing that child abuse is found in every country around the world, regardless of culture, social class, education level, income, or ethnic origin. This was based on the official reports on sexual abuse from 21 countries, almost all developed countries, indicating that between 7 and 36% of women and between 3% and 29% said they had suffered some type of sexual abuse during their childhood, in most cases by family members.
This situation, the few initiatives in Colombia to promote and prevent violence, and the lack of resources for education on sexuality and peaceful coexistence, drove Fundación SURA do design, in 2008, a program aimed at training and assisting educators on how to approach these issues from the point of view of rights and the development of individual and institutional rights. The process of transferring Félix y Susana to the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, where violence and abuse situations similar to those that led to the Program in Colombia were identified, started in 2015.
Purpose of the program
Félix y Susana has evolved over these past 13 years through the understanding of the individual characteristics of each context, the participating actors, and their relationship with the environment. The program is currently defined as an education initiative aimed at helping children build meaningful lessons and experiences, make decisions about caring for their bodies, their lives, and their relationships by reinforcing protective and inclusive educational environments.
Félix y Susana is implemented in schools and playrooms through three pillars: a) training educators with a focus on thinking about their attitudes, beliefs, and symbology with respect to education on sexuality, peaceful coexistence, and life skills; b) using pedagogical tools and proposals to support the work with children and families; c) assistance to education institutions and agents to leverage their capabilities.
Our main actors
The children: they are the program’s raison d’être. Through different actions, we want them to be recognized as having rights, with the ability to express opinions, question, and participate in the decisions that involve them. Placing the children at the center of our actions requires a commitment to revise and deconstruct believes that adults are always right, while the children are seen as repositories of information, with little ability to participate and make decisions. Therefore, the children whom we help through Félix y Susana are authentic, have good judgment, they recognize their emotions, and they know what their rights and responsibilities are towards themselves and others.
The education agents: teachers, administrators, and playroom directors with whom we work directly and continuously. They are the facilitators and mediators of the learning process. This is why we aim to help them with their self-reflection, so they can question their own beliefs and systems, and change their practices and outlook with respect to the children, and recognize the multiple possibilities and potential of play as a kid I mentioned to mobilize attitudes, knowledge, and skills for coexistence and a healthy enjoyment of sexuality.
The families: seen as diverse in their composition and characteristics, they are the closest protective environment and, therefore, they are guarantors of the children’s rights. The work we do with the families is intended to transform their understanding and outlook of the children, recognizing them as having rights, and creating closer ties with them where love and good treatment are foremost. The idea is to have articulation and active participation in the spaces for education and integration.
The context: we are aware that it is important for all environments to be protective and participative for children, and also that the purpose of the program is to be sustainable over time. Thus, Félix y Susana’s objective is that all the actions they take place in the educational environment guarantee the capabilities of the educational agents and venues, and attempting to act in the entire country to enable the construction of key agendas to promote quality education and well-being for all.
Some results of the impact evaluation
We are aware of how important it is to know what is achieved in educational settings, in twenty eighteen, the program decided to evaluate the impact of its implementation using a mixed evaluation. The objective was to identify and analyze the effects and the transformations that had taken place in a group of one hundred and eight schools, which could be attributed to the implementation of the Félix y Susana program. The results identified the impact on these three items: a) the teachers’ pedagogical processes; b) the students’ concepts and practices; c) peaceful coexistence at school, in the family, and in the community.
It is worth noting that, in their pedagogical processes, teachers have a better idea about the children’s risk situations, and they are able to act to prevent them. With respect to the students, it could be seen that they can identify their closest adults as their main protective environment and apply this as a practice for care. In terms of coexistence at school, in the family, and in the community, the actors indicated that there is a perception of your conflicts and better resolution of the conflicts that arise.
In addition, the evaluation also showed that the main mechanisms that make the Félix y Susana operation successful are implementation of training processes; work with the families; the characteristics and usability of the materials; and the assistance provided by the program’s professionals.
CoronaVida strategy to assist with home learning
One of the sectors that has been most affected by the public health crisis in the region due to COVID-19 is, without a doubt, education. The transformation that has been taking place has required various actors in the system to act immediately, moving from in-person to virtual interactions, with the resources that each individual has to continue with their priorities in education and provide learning continuity.
Félix y Susana has become an important support tool for educational communities in the countries where it is being implemented. Given the magnitude of the crisis produced by the pandemic, we attempt to recognize and use our own resources and the resources of the social and family networks that people have to reinforce the well-being and peaceful coexistence alternatives during this social distancing.
During 2020, using the CoronaVida strategy, the program focused on assisting educational agents by strengthening those aspects related to their social-emotional skills, preventing abuse and violent situations, and communications and relationships to provide care and support. Using this strategy, we have reached more than three thousand six hundred education agents in Columbia, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador through more than four 450 virtual assistance sessions and 8 pedagogical guides and 45 tools to work with children and families.
Félix y Susana challenges us to expand our understanding of the environment, continue assisting with articulating initiatives to improve the quality of life of the children, according to the individual characteristics of each context, the people, and their relationships, as a starting point to lead relevant education processes, policies that produce meaningful lessons, and a company people during their entire lives. This is how this path has made it possible to scale this type of experiences which now represent an important tool for developing educational policies in Latin America.
About Tatiana Henao Zuluaga
Tatiana Henao Zuluaga is an administrative engineer specializing human development management, with a Master’s in social enterprises for social innovation and development. As Social Management Coordinator at Fundación SURA she in charge of leading the programs, projects, and initiatives of the Foundation and its alliances, aimed at improving the quality of education, acknowledging the convergence of different strategies whose end purpose is to enhance the exercise of citizenship, with a critical, ethical, and human look in different contexts, like communities, companies, and countries, in an effort to create more equitable and inclusive societies and, therefore, more competitive and sustainable countries.
“One of the things that really made an impact on me about the Félix y Susana program is the relationship that I have to have it myself before. This peace of mind, this is self-love, so I can reach my students and even my colleagues.”
- A teacher at Colegio San Cayetano – Colombia
“I believe that the program, from the start, understood that in order to “work” on the children’s emotions, you have to work first with the emotions of the teachers. Right from the first training I understood the importance of recognizing and working on my emotions to be able to impact the lives of my students. Every time I participate, I comfort myself and imagine new strategies to be the best person and the best teacher.”
- A teacher at Colegio Gerardo Paredes – Colombia
“We are very grateful to the Félix y Susana program because they care for our mental health, this has been a very productive activity because it has provided important tools that we must include in our day-to-day activities with students and families.”
- Teacher evaluating the CoronaVida strategy – El Salvador