At the heart of each and every Mahapach–Taghir project is the Learning Community: a holistic, inclusive model of education that strives to provide equal educational opportunities for children in disadvantaged neighborhoods, while also 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 of the education of the children and the community as well as tools for their empowerment .
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 (“Academic Students”). Together, they work to improve the scholastic and social skills of participating children and youth. Parental participation in the learning process is highly encouraged.
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, working together, nurturing individual needs, and using the principles of Critical Pedagogy.
The Learning Community is an interactive environment for both teaching and learning, so students and teachers often exchange roles: Academic Students tutor the children while also 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 alongside some two hundred Academic Students and volunteers.
Parents who are involved in the Learning Community and are active in changing their realities and the realities of their children also 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. The Steering Committees developed from this model of parental involvement.
Activities in the Learning Communities include:
Tutoring: Working with individuals or with groups, Academic 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. Example activities include: writing community newspapers, working in community gardens, and holding discussions about topics central to the Community and to their 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.