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Inclusion and equity

Healing from the classroom: a pioneering initiative to support grieving students

In Toluca, Mexico, they met with more than 300 parents and teachers to understand in greater depth how their children and students experience situations in which they must face the loss of a loved one.

How to provide better support to students going through a grieving process? In the city of Toluca, Mexico, a group of local leaders came together to address the challenge, which became more acute during the coronavirus pandemic. According to their analysis, the lack of tools and resources in educational institutions to address the problem led to poor academic performance among more and more students.

The team, which participates in the Local Innovators Program (PIL), is made up of Aldana Di Costanzo, a social entrepreneur cooperating from Argentina, and a group of local government leaders: Cynthia Piña Quintana, Alejandro Martinez and Laura Lopez Vazquez, who is currently the coordinator of the support network “Sanando desde el Aula” in the Ministry of Education of the State of Mexico. 

The initiative arises from the desire to contribute to social well-being and the recognition of an increasingly pressing institutional need. The main objective is to provide tools of thanatology, the comprehensive study related to death, so that educational actors can support students who are going through grief. And not only for the death of loved ones, but also for other losses they have experienced.

The project was well received by teachers, since – according to local figures – 87% faced some type of loss during the pandemic. Many of them expressed difficulties in continuing with their educational work given the panorama and concerns derived from the health emergency. Additionally, they noticed certain behaviors in their students that evidenced the impact of grief, such as poor academic performance, anxiety, aggression, and absenteeism.

The importance of communicating

Within the framework of the PIL, the team carried out a territorial validation of impact, interacting with 300 parents and some teachers to understand the situation from different perspectives and in greater depth.

“Life unites us with people and ideas, and ideas are often the anchor to make those changes that are required. You can have an idea, but if you are alone, you cannot do all this synergy in a social impact.”

– Laura López Vázquez

The Toluca group identified a growing demand to talk openly about grief in the educational setting. Parents showed openness and acceptance towards the need to work together with teachers to address the issue. They recognize that it is essential to establish assertive communication and provide tools so that teachers can adequately support their children during the grieving process.

Cynthia Piña Quintana, member of the local government, highlights the importance of creating support networks with grief specialists to strengthen and enrich the work. The team seeks to generate pedagogical and social initiatives that generate conscious social change in the classrooms. According to their calculations, they have already reached 8,000 people through conferences, workshops and other activities. The impact could soon extend to around 30,000 more. 

Participation in the PIL includes collaborating with specialists, linking with other networks and social actors. This has enriched the “Healing from the Classroom” project and has allowed the support to be comprehensive and effective. Leaders have been aware of the importance of generating a culture of grief that promotes resilience and emotional well-being for both teachers and students.

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