An extra bunk bed, please!

By: Jette Luna & Johnny Baltzersen, CICED 

It’s not every day that a project’s relevance can be measured in the need for bunk beds. But this is the case in Potosí in the Bolivian highlands, where CICED’s project with Acción Andina de Educación/AAE is really taking off.

AAE’s project team has just visited Caiza D, Yocalla, Chaqui and Puna, the four participating municipalities. The project’s focus on (vocational) education for young people has generated unexpectedly high interest.

In the small villages, school is only available up to sixth grade. With no access to education after the 6-year primary school, young people are left to the often inhumanly hard jobs in one of the 2,000 or so mining companies in the area, or they must head for the big cities and resort to menial labor.

Access to middle school requires young people to move to larger villages, but this requires safe and secure accommodation. Especially for the girls. Many parents are afraid to send their daughters to middle school far from home if there are no proper and safe conditions. Girls are severely underrepresented in all schooling beyond primary school. Nationally, only 60% of young people complete upper secondary or vocational education. In Potosí, the figure is 45%, and girls’ share is just 10%.

For this reason, the project focuses on expanding and improving the school homes that are a prerequisite for poor village youth and especially young girls to have access to middle school. And with the high level of interest from young people, more bunk beds will be needed than initially expected. Negotiations with the municipalities about their additional contribution have begun.

The project is being welcomed with open arms everywhere. Establish steering groups between school and community. The teachers who work in some of the most run-down schools in Bolivia have never been offered any kind of training before, so it’s a bit unreal for them that they are now being invited to participate in mapping out what skills they need most, so that future training is tailored to local needs.

In addition, the project has created an overview of which villages have agricultural projects that can be built on and which villages need to develop new sustainable projects from scratch. The challenge is quite clear. Mining, climate change and rural-to-urban migration have taken their toll on previously poor, yet functioning, agriculture. Everywhere there are broken and abandoned greenhouses and raised beds and school gardens that haven’t been cultivated for years. The need for the project’s support for agricultural projects is clear.

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