Persistence and passion: the pathway to learning 

Upskilling and reskilling
01.09.2021
“Teaching the people who need it most is one of the greatest achievements in my life. At last, I am doing the job I am passionate about.” These are the words of Nevardo Hernandez Babativa, instructor of the National Learning Service (SENA), who is renowned for his dedication and commitment as a teacher of construction workers in informal neighbourhoods. 
Nevardo Hernandez Babativa

Originally from the province of Cundinamarca, he arrived in the city of Bogotá at an early age. He grew up at a time when education was for the privileged few and supporting a family was a daily struggle. With a lot of effort and a strong desire to learn, he managed to get a place at SENA to study a technical course in Construction. Later, he earned a professional degree as an administrator and architectural constructor with an honourable mention for his dedication and commitment. 

“It was a wonderful experience, graduating at 45, and already being a grandfather. It is never too late to achieve your dreams,” Nevardo laughs. 

He started his professional life as a job proficiency evaluator for teachers and construction workers. In 2009, thanks to his performance, he received the offer to be a SENA instructor in the construction area. 

In a joint effort with methodologists, SENA teaching staff and technical experts, Swisscontact developed labour aptitude standards and curricula in 2012 through the Construya project. This gave rise to a training process for construction builders on issues of vulnerability and habitability. Upon learning of this initiative, Nevardo was very excited and offered his support to this developing initiative. 

“Some workers have been making construction mistakes for years, this was an opportunity to teach them to do things better,” says Nevardo. 

"Implementing the acupuncture training methodology, as it was called in Swisscontactwhere teachers can observe good vs bad practices in construction through simulations, was a strategy that taught all the instructors who participated in the project to do things differently. With didactic material and learning by doing, it can be taught in a simple way."
Nevardo Hernandez Babativa, instructor of the National Learning Service (SENA)
Nevardo teaching a class

It is very gratifying for Nevardo that, after training construction workers in indigenous communities in a poorer area of Usme, near Bogotá, the students identified so much with the learning-by-doing methodology that they continued with their studies and managed to graduate as SENA construction technicians. With a broken voice, he adds:

"This is how a country is built, by transforming the lives of the people who need it most, with simple things; just by doing what we are passionate about. In my case, it’s teaching."

A new challenge in Nevardo’s professional life is to be part of the group of instructors who will be responsible for training the team of SENA trainers and the National School of Instructors. He will teach them about issues such as earthquake resistance and safe construction in informal homes. This will be done through in-person classes, and through the virtual courses created by the Construya project hosted on the “Territory” LMS. This online training option for construction workers was set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Once the project will have ended, SENA will be able to continue meeting the demand for training on these issues.

For Juan Gabriel Galeano, advisor of the National School of Instructors of SENA, “The trainer of trainers is a full professional who not only has technical skills but is also a good human being and is passionate about his vocation of serving through teaching.” In this way, SENA will have more well-trained instructors who have learnt the methodology, are sensitised and can do a great job. 

The Construya project for Safe, healthy, and sustainable construction in poor neighbourhoods is financed by the Hilti Foundation and implemented by Swisscontact in Colombia. As part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, it is co-financed by SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA).