Monday, October 8, 2007

Education and Peru: The Work of Tarpurisunchis

Tarpurisunchis is a Peruvian NGO working on education in Apurimac, one of the poorest regions of Peru. It is a civil organization without profit aims. Tarpurisunchis is a Quechua (native language) word for "let us sow".

People living in the Andes have been repeteadly and violently oppressed throughout their history. Colonization is still a daily topic in many rural areas. The period of the landowners and the haciëndas lasted up to the seventies, and the region is still recovering from terrorist violence of the 80s and 90s. Many have escaped to larger cities or to foreign countries, especially the better educated and more wealthy residents who could flee the region then.

In Peru, there is a tradition that the capital, Lima, dictates the rules. Even until this day, residents search for wisdom from Lima…
However, a policy was started that is intended to transfer powers to the regions. People learn to get used to the right of self-determination, to take responsibility and to appreciate their own language and culture. Within Peru, Apurimac is the region with the lowest quality in education. In some rural areas, there is also a significant shortage to education supplies, especially in case of pre-school and high schools. Some crucial figures: 36.9 percent illiteracy, average duration of a study of 4.6 years, and 54.4 percent of the population does not finish elementary school.

All education directives have always been imposed from Lima, without taking into account the completely different realities in the Andes. Most teachers are highly motivated yet severely underpaid. There is little invested in education and the education systems have become obsolete. Subjects and methodologies should be well-considered again, because students continue to score poorly on basic knowledge, such as math and language arts.

As a school, Tarpurisunchis is already a positive example in the region, because they have carried out visible and meaningful changes. Some examples: applying new education methods, the realignment of the (resident’s/native’s) own identity and language (Quechua), the interactive communication with the children, abolishing military marches, and valuing local and traditional food, etc. We are the first to introduce Quechua back into the schools. Other schools are beginning to follow this example.
Within 3 years, the pre-school school and the first 2 elementary grades have reached 100 students. Our aim is to recruit more than 500 students for the whole school (pre-school, elementary and high school levels).

Tarpurisunchis is active in two areas:

- THE REGIONAL EDUCATIONAL REFORM PROGRAM - The regional educational reform program. This involves: adapted curricula, capacity building of educators, participation of students, reinforcing Quechua as part of one’s identity, renewing libraries and a communication project around social topics. Tarpurisunchis is cooperating with governments and all participants involved.

- MODEL SCHOOL. It aims to give an innovating, alternative example for the region. The quality of education in Apurímac is depressingly low. We want to show with our school that we can improve quality of education. At this moment, we have a pre-school school and an elementary school (only 1st and 2nd grade). In the long run we are also organizing a high school.

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