There are a lot of things in Peru that have taken me some time to get used to. The way the government treats education, the incredible bureaucracy behind doing even the simplest of procedures, the openly “machisto” or prejudiced attitudes of some of the upper class… But I think one of the hardest things for me to deal with is the response of the people to all of this.
Parents are forced to pay more money every week to the teachers for supplies and copies. The children have missed school more times than they’ve been over the past month with all the strikes and vacations. The response to all of this is usually “Asi es”… That’s how it is.
How do societies and norms change? In my opinion, it usually takes a mass movement from the people themselves, coming together to call attention to the fact that things are unjust and demanding a change. However, after talking to the families SKIP works with in El Porvenir, I’ve realized that most of them don’t even know that free education is a basic right or that the constitution mandates it be provided. If you were used to living life with just having enough money to scrape by, never able to stop working or escape for a day, how else would you know what else is out there?
Most of our SKIP parents did not have the chance to go to school when they were young. I wonder, as a new generation comes of age– will they be able to change things? When asking the parents why they think education is important, many give the answers that they want their child to be able to earn more money, to find a steady career, and in that way make a better life for themselves. When I look at the potential of these children with an education, I also see the bigger picture— and I hope they can make a better life not just for themselves, but for other disadvantaged people and children by fighting against the injustice. That’s why I think a quality education is so important, one where they’re not just copying meaningless numbers or words from the board but actually learning how to critically think for themselves and apply their knowledge.
The poorest people are always the ones most hurt by the injustices in society. I never fully realized this until I started working with the families in SKIP. Sure, the fact that education isn’t free is an annoyance to upper middle class families, but an extra 5 soles (not quite $2) that the teacher requests for copies one week is no big deal. To our families, who sometimes have no more than 11 soles to their name, this sometimes means choosing between education and food for their children. Often times, the laws and programs from the government are solutions that will help the upper classes, but not the poorest who can’t help themselves. It’s only natural that this happens—not only is the upper class society the one most of these people were raised in and understand, but it is also due to the fact that placating this group of people is important for raising funds and staying in power.
My goal in advocacy with SKIP is to provide these severely impoverished families with the tools to help themselves into more comfortable and stable living. In this country, as well as in the rest of the developing and developed world as well, the poor always start with strikes against them in the access to quality education, ability to find well paying or stable jobs, and their political pull. If we can provide them with the tools and education to realize the injustices and help them find their voices to speak out about them, they definitely have the manpower to incite change and make the government listen.
Posted By Sara Zampierin
Posted Aug 18th, 2007