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Hospital-based educational support for children undergoing cancer treatment.

Cancer Kids Tutors

location_on El Salvador
Pediatric cancer patients face challenges during treatment that interfere with proper education. The COVID pandemic and political turmoil have worsened the quality of education. The oncology program has 350 patients in treatment and school abandonment in patients is higher than the national mean. Our solution is to create a hospital-based tutoring program to support patients in school.

HundrED shortlisted this innovation

HundrED has shortlisted this innovation to one of its innovation collections. The information on this page has been checked by HundrED.
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Innovation Overview

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Updated on August 9th, 2022
about the innovation

Why did you create this innovation?

Pediatric cancer patients face challenges that interfere with education. The COVID pandemic and political turmoil have worsened the quality of education. At this time, schools are returning to in-person education, on-line opportunities are closing leaving children with cancer behind. Their education is lacking, deficient, and demotivating. Children need additional help with education.

How does your innovation work in practice?

We have created a hospital-based tutoring program that aims to support children enrolled at regular school with their education by maintaining contact with schools and helping them keep up with schoolwork while children are at the hospital and online while at home. The process begins with patient's schools being informed of the tutoring program through a letter. Weekly guidelines, classes, homework, and evaluations are shared with the hospital´s tutors by the school teachers or parents. In addition to schoolwork, teachers can submit objectives and indicators as well as comments and requests for the tutor. Patients work with the tutors when they attend hospital appointments and during hospitalizations. The tutors help with school work, communicate with teachers to help understand the disease and treatment process, support with school planning and organization, and assist in the patient's return to school.

How has it been spreading?

A systematic approach has been included by periodically assessing patient's educational status by the psychosocial team. This has allowed to support more patients by inviting them to the program. Also, this solution has been spreading by word-of-mouth among families and patients. Usually, patients ask for educational support. Although the tutoring has not been universal for lack of funds, we have used the knowledge of many of our teacher volunteers and have found this process to be motivating and helpful for patient students and their parents. We have also begun developing strategic alliances with three local universities to have education students as formal tutors at the hospital. Children who have worked with tutors report the tutoring as helpful for them.

If I want to try it, what should I do?

With every patient start with an educational status assessment of the opportunities offered by the current school. If not available, refer to a hospital school program. If available, the team should contact the school, offer support, and request the teacher to share objectives and indicators every week so tutors can help patients achieve the curricular goals by helping with schoolwork and exams


See this innovation in action

A glimpse to our model
We work collaboratively with the schools. This is a graphic representation of out workflow. Regular school teachers, and sometimes, the special education teacher, provide guides for every week or period. This allows tutors to support patients on the specific topics they need to understand and complete schoolwork such as homework and test that are sent back to the teachers for grading. This represent a collaborative liaison between the school, the community and our pediatric cancer program. 
Love and numbers
We believe that emotions are an important component of education. Take Amalia as an example, last week she spent hours learning the numbers with her tutor without even noticing. Our tutors promote engagement by showing a deep respect to learners. Children love their tutoring hours because they feel connected, supported and heard. By caring consideration of their emotion we can enhance learning in subjects as math that can usually be a challenge. Picture shown with Amalia's mother written consent. 
She's made to thrive
Silvia came to our program at 14, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and soon started treatment. During her educational assessment we found that Silvia was feeling highly demotivated towards school because she had already missed a couple years and felt ashamed to be seen bald by younger classmates. At first, she was reluctant to continue with her studies. After being enrolled in Cancer Kids Tutors, we rapidly discovered how smart, fun and proactive Silvia can be. This program helped her feel more confident on her ability to learn, do schoolwork, but the biggest win was the new motivation to continue studying. This was possible thanks to her tutor that spend whole mornings with her practicing, explaining and motivating while she fought pediatric cancer. Picture shown with Silvia's mother written consent. 
How can math and corn work together?
Mirna, our tutor from a local university works with our patient Sofia (8 y/o). The 2nd grade curricula includes substractions as part of the math plan. In this tutoring session Mirna helped Sofia based on the topics, objectives and indicators provided by the teacher and respecting the Ministry of Education guidelines. Mirna found that Sofía could benefit from a visual approach and decided that the next session they will use corn grains as a mean to practice substractions. Picture shown with Sofia's mom written consent


Achievements & Awards

May 2022
Innovation page created on

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Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Having a clear understanding of a child's educational status is key to help them go back into school. Every child's situation is unique, hence, understanding this situation is necessary to tailor interventions, develop recovery programs in collaboration with the community schools.
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Children with cancer can thrive on their education. But they need adequate conditions. No single agent can provide this. The family, community school and hospital team should always point in the same direction. Collaboration we can ensure that very child with cancer thrives.
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Once resources are allocated, children need guidance during their study sessions. This step is at the heart of our innovation. Tutors join patients in-person at our treatment centre or at home on-line following directions from teachers and helping our kids thrive despite their disease.
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Feed back
We aim to evaluate our children's skills in a fair and creative way. This evaluation is needed to achieve promotion and fulfill other requirements. Promotion is key to achieve higher educational levels. Our tutors send schoolwork to teachers so they can provide feedback and suggest optimizations.
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