At the heart of each and every Mahapach–Taghir community is the Learning Community, a holistic, inclusive model of education that strives to provide equal educational opportunities to children and youth in disempowered neighborhoods, while encouraging the civic action of local residents, parents, and academic students. In this model, community building, individual and group tutoring, parental participation, and activism are essential components in the education of the children and the community, and as empowerment tools for the community as a whole.
The Learning Community is a place for forming relationships, learning together and from one another, and building common ground. The Learning Community is overseen by a Mahapach-Taghir community coordinator and the local Steering Committee, and is composed of parents and residents as well as twenty to thirty scholarship university students. Together, they work to improve the scholastic and social skills of participating children and youth. Educational methods are personally designed in order to answer the needs of disempowered children who have not been able to access the same educational opportunities and rights as other demographic groups. Emphasis is placed on building self-esteem, group effort, individual nurturing, alternative methods of acquiring reading and writing skills, and principles of Critical Pedagogy. Additionally, parental participation in the learning process is highly encouraged.
The Learning Community is an interactive environment for both teaching and learning, so students and teachers often exchange roles: university students tutor the children while learning from them and their parents about the issues that the community faces. Today, over six hundred children and their family members are involved in the Learning Communities, together with some two hundred students and volunteers.
Parents who are involved in the Learning Community and are active in changing their realities and the realities of their children undergo a process of personal empowerment. While some of the parents working with the Mahapach-Taghir coordinators handle discipline problems, others take part in organizing communal action days. From this model of parental involvement developed the second core activity of Mahapach-Taghir: the communal Steering Committees.
Activities in the Learning Communities include:
Tutoring: Working with individuals or with groups, university students assist the children in the preparation of homework and in subjects they find challenging. The tutoring schedule is planned in coordination with the children’s parents and their teachers.
Group work: Group activities not only expose the children to various topics and fields of expertise, but also foster self-confidence and independence, and the development of strong social skills Examples include community newspapers and community gardens, instruction in math and English, and discussions on questions pertaining to the community and to personal identity.
Community Action days: These days enable the entire community to focus on a single issue or project – such as social or environmental issues, tradition, democracy, or virtually any other topic the community considers of importance – while also raising awareness of current social issues and encouraging civic activism.
There are no costs for participating in the activities of the Learning Community, but each family is required to contribute to the community and to volunteer