The two most important new words I’ve learned in Spanish here: feriado and huelga, implying national holiday and strike, respectively. Last week, the public schools were closed 3 out of 5 days for a combination of a strike and two days feriados, a Saint holiday and extra day mandated by the president to encourage tourism.
I was able to start visiting the schools and interact with the children through teaching a few of their English classes. Besides the strikes and holidays, I’m quickly learning more about the Peruvian public education, and I can’t help but contrast it with my own experiences. For example, when a teacher doesn’t show in Peru, the whole class goes home. Of the six classes I’ve tried to teach in the past two weeks, this has happened to two of them (on top of all the days those children already weren’t going to school).
Jessica and I are starting to look more into the issues of advocating for a free, quality education for all children in Peru. It turns out that the government basically only provides enough money to pay teacher salaries. On top of paying for their school supplies and uniforms, each child must pay money to the APAFA, the parent association, which in turn is supposed to supply the money for improvements and maintenance of the school. When I watch the kids at recess kicking around pieces of trash to play soccer or using a big hole in the ground as a mini- jungle gym, I wonder what all the money is going. The APAFAs are not required to report their spending, and are seen as a large part of the corruption of the education system of Peru.
When a country only spends 3.3% of its GDP on education (Economist, link in the blog post from 5/22/07), and household contributions to education are 50% of the government’s expense per student (Saavedra, 2001), it’s no surprise that they come in towards the bottom in international testing. Add that to the problem of teachers striking or failing tests of basic primary skills, and it’s a miracle that students still even show up at all.
Meanwhile, the government wants to spend more money from it’s already inadequate budget—approximately $43,750,000 on the One Laptop Per Child Program (link is to a blog translated to English, since most of the news on this subject is in Spanish). The blog expresses some of the same concerns I have— are the parents going to continue to pay so much for the supposedly “free” education? With a teacher force that has already been so widely criticized for their lack of basic knowledge, how do they expect the students will be better equipped to learn with these laptops?
Posted By Sara Zampierin
Posted Jul 3rd, 2007