Shared visions create hope in Potosí

By: Pedro Apala, Director, Acción Andina de Educación AAE 

As a pluri-national state, Bolivia has enjoyed good economic, social and cultural development for more than a decade. Bolivia is not quite at the level of the developed countries yet, but is well on its way, and in particular, there has been great progress in the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples.

Today, for example, all indigenous languages are constitutionally official languages in the country, and regionalized curricula have been developed that incorporate indigenous perspectives and worldviews, with a strong focus on developing sustainability, including respect for nature.

Economically, indigenous peoples have generally experienced good economic development over the last 10 years, but when it comes to education – or equal access to education – the reality is different. Indigenous children and young people continue to experience that they do not have the same access to a good education as other children and young people in Bolivia.

This is especially true for children and young people in rural villages. Young people in rural areas generally face challenges in accessing education. Typically, there are only primary schools and no middle schools in villages, so in order to finish middle school, young people have to move to a larger city, where the lucky ones may be able to stay with family – or if the family can afford it, rent a room.

In collaboration with the Danish NGO CICED, AAE has had the opportunity to focus on this particular issue through the educational project “Quality education for poor children and young people in the highlands of Potosí”.

The project is responsible for the development of school homes where young people from the villages can live in safe conditions and at the same time be part of an educational community, where there is a focus on developing social and vocational skills and where the young people, in collaboration with teachers employed by the project, prepare individual education plans. In addition, young people have the opportunity to build important networks and rewarding friendships with young people from other villages. Friendships that for many of the young people will last a lifetime.

Schools are back in session

CICED and AAE have jointly developed a special education where young people, based on the local context, are given the opportunity to complete middle school and thus gain access to either a medium-term higher education or university – and the opportunity to acquire special business skills in professional areas where there are good opportunities to make a living.

CICED and AAE are also collaborating on the development of local socio-productive projects that aim to generate income for families in the villages, thus helping to ensure that the families’ children have the opportunity to continue their education.

Through the development of productive projects, young people and parents gain tools and knowledge on how to start their own small family business and, in the longer term, perhaps develop a small family business into a potential medium-sized business.

Continuing education for teachers 

All of these activities are very clearly part of the specific productive education model that Bolivia has been implementing for the last 10 years.

CICED and AAE share the same vision for the education of children and young people, but AAE also finds that in terms of developing sustainable communities, CICED is a particularly strong partner.

The global pandemic has highlighted the importance of these measures. Covid-19 has left many families’ finances in ruins, and Bolivia is simply unable to provide financial support to all the hard-hit families in the poor rural areas.

Through the use of virtual platforms, AAE has throughout the pandemic tried to continue the project’s work to further develop the education of children and young people and also the development of the activities that young people and parents in the villages are responsible for. Including the development of both socio-productive projects and sustainable school homes.

Parents and young people to meet about socio-productive projects

It has been important to be able to meet over the web, and holding such meetings has been a very useful tool. But much has also been lost by not being able to hold face-to-face meetings where needs and problems can be more openly discussed, and where you can see and hear the often great enthusiasm of teachers and parents when future plans for school and community development are presented and discussed.

In collaboration with CICED, AAE looks forward to continue working on building quality education for children and youth, including the development of strong and sustainable communities.

[Translation Jette Luna, CICED]

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