More than 300 migrant teens are completing their high school education through Dawere International High School, registered with the Florida Department of Education.
Students learn via virtual classes with the support of the NGO TTV Solidarity Network (TTVSolnet) and various sponsors.
Emily Matute, 16, and fellow students Carlos Paredes, 16, and Luis Paredes, 17, came to TT approximately five years ago. The three had to leave their high school studies in Venezuela when their families decided to leave the country in search of a better quality of life.
Matute is from Caracas. Carlos and Luis are from Maturín, Monagas state.
Matute was about to enter her first year of high school. Carlos was in the first year, while Luis was in form two.
The three were part of the founding group of Dawere TT in 2019. They graduated a few weeks ago. They are part of the first group of 85 Venezuelan teens who completed their high school studies as migrants in TT.
Matute was the first student to enrol in the programme. She was able to complete the educational plan in the same time frame as if she were in Venezuela. "I want to continue studying. I want to be a professional and I have several things in mind," she said.
Her parents, Yenitza Molina and Elkin Matute, are proud of their daugther.
Matute said, "It has been a challenge, because education is one of the first commitments that parents must give their children to prepare them for life. Children develop their skills after great efforts, and seeing them already heading for a university career and being able to talk about culture overall, it's a wonderful thing."
"With the help of TTVSolnet, it has been the basis of all this. We will have great professionals in the future, migrants who were able to study in the midst of their situation," said Molina.
Carlos Paredes and Rosiris Rincones, parents of Carlos and Luis, said when they arrived in TT their main concern was their children's studies. With the opening of the Dawere programme they saw a great opportunity to continue their normal lives.
They live in Princes Town and began with online classes in maths, physics, chemistry and English. They then attended face-to-face teaching support classes in San Fernando at Presentation College Monday-Friday from 3-5pm, after local students had finished school.
With the arrival of the covid19 pandemic, they had to return to virtual classes until they finished their education.
“We are reassured that now they can enter any university in the world,” said Paredes.
Carlos wants to study medicine or law. Luis wants to study medicine.
Paredes said he thanks God that his children can successfully advance despite being migrants. Now they have to plan their next educational step.
Paredes said: "Access to higher education in TT is very difficult for migrants, especially because of the costs. We have to think about what we will do now."
While they make decisions, Carlos and Luis are taking courses in English, electricity, and even medicine.
Gersy Goatche, co-ordinator of Dawere in TT and director of TTVsolnet, told Newsday the students receive high school certificates signed and stamped by the Florida Department of Education.
Currently 220 students have just finished the semester. For the next classes, 240 students are already on the list for registration.
In future, Goatche explained, "There will be changes in the system. There is a choice of studying for 18 credits (per semester, used for a technical career) or 24 credits (per academic year valid for any university option).
Although the programme is for children 11 and over, migrant children under that age can achieve the academic levels necessary to take the Dawere Global USA validation exam and start their high school from the 7th year, known in America as middle school.
TTVsolnet is in talks with UNICEF to support schools that are being opened by migrant mothers who are teachers so that these will also be learning centres and can coach students for the Dawere entrance test.
Heidi Diquez, founding member/managing director of TTVSolnet, said the young migrants who do not have access to accredited education in TT are a great example of resilience and perseverance and deserve great recognition for achieving their high school diplomas. Many want to continue their studies.
"We thank the Pan American Development Foundation and UNICEF for their financial contribution that allows these young people to have access to a quality and recognised education every academic year," she said.
Through Dawere, students have access to video classes, downloadable support material, automated, summative and formative evaluations, as well as a forum supervised by teachers to clarify students' doubts.
The Dawere International High School diploma is valid in 122 countries.