The Colombian Luisa Vélez dedicates her time to inclusive education to which she is committed through technology.
This mission began to be the axis of her life when she had extremely premature twins, one of whom, due to lack of oxygen, was born with cerebral palsy: “10 years ago I created the Cero a Tres Foundation together with another family to help to my son Matías and other children who needed assistance to access education”.
Thinking about her case and those of other families moved her to turn to mathematical sciences to find solutions with a clear goal in her head, to ensure that many educational institutions work daily with a specific purpose, the diversity in the classrooms and teachers that address with suitability: “We cover complex cases such as my son's and many others such as children with specific emotional conditions. They all have some characteristic that prevents them from learning at the same pace as their classmates”, explains Luisa.
Although Vélez is not a mathematician, she devised an algorithm to help teachers who have children in their classrooms with special needs in cognitive, physical, and behavioral terms: “These students do not have a manual that the teacher can follow. I don't know how to program but, using that algorithm, she wanted teachers to know how to handle difficult cases. I turned it into a technological platform and created what is today Skalo”.
Given the need for help from investors, in 2021 Skalo became a Startup that has the Cero a Tres Foundation as a partner: “9 people work in a team of managers, salespeople, and developers. We have the support of the United Way, an organization with global influence that supports education based on the vulnerable population. Today we only operate in Colombia but we want to reach other countries to generate social impact starting with Mexico”.
Luisa Vélez's horizons are broad and that is why she works to reach public schools throughout the Colombian geography, so having United Way Colombia will facilitate the generation of agreements with the country's education secretaries: "We want to spread our impact, to be able to reach those places where there are high rates of learning difficulties. We know that there are difficulties in accessing the Internet in many places, but we make up for it by going in person with the help of the Saldarriaga Concha Foundation. We have pilot experiences in Barranquilla, Yumbo, Itagüí and Bello, Antioquia, and some municipalities in the department of Valle”.
The help that Skalo provides to educational institutions covers the conditions contemplated by the International Classification of Disability and Health Functioning (CIF), which includes all college students who show any disability: autism, cognitive problems, and Disability Syndrome Down, among others: “Many kids don't have a diagnosis and that's why we focus our attention on those who face barriers to learning. Skalo profiles the student in a particular way from a list that includes those who are academically vulnerable. The criterion of the educational institution is paramount”.
Families participate in the assistance process provided by Skalo: "To design the path to follow, it is important to know what the characteristics of each child's family dynamics are and how they behave at school, which is why we also talk to the teachers". The instructions for doing the tasks, how each one learns, and what tools they need to be at the level of their peers are key data to improve the educational process from a particular perspective that translates into an adjustment plan. Everyone can be in the same classroom learning at their own pace.
Startup Skalo recently received the TPrize award from the Tecnológico de Monterrey at the International Congress of Educational Innovation: "We were chosen as one of the five solutions to increase students' skills during the school period so that they reach the labor market being more competitive”.
In Latin America, statistics indicate that 19 million children are vulnerable in terms of learning due to temporary or permanent barriers and 5 million teachers do not have the tools to educate them: "Skalo has managed to reduce by 80% the time a teacher spends in developing a personalized adjustment plan. In 20 minutes we develop a route that guides their work toward each student analyzed. The response has been very positive, 96% of the teachers with whom we have worked consider the recommended adjustments pertinent”, explains Vélez.
Luisa Vélez's concern for the education of her son, Matías, has led to a wonderful reality that positively affects thousands of Colombian students with specific learning needs.
Although she is a finance specialist, Luisa has met the challenges that life has given her and has prepared herself to overcome them: “I think we all go up a ladder, we look with admiration at those who go up, but we must show solidarity with those who come down. We must accompany each other, if we shake hands the path is more rewarding”.