I was discussing with another SKIP volunteer today about how we believe we can, if we can, change what we feel is unjust.
He argued that what he worked for was the few kids that would get out from the life that they seemed otherwise predestined to have. He said that if these kids could step into a city that moved in a parallel dimension, its back against them, out of El Porvenir, their steps would make a difference.
For him then, educating these kids, meant not only giving them an opportunity for a better life but also making sure they could make a larger, more profound impact in the future for others.
I wanted him to be right. The indefinite Teacher’s strike continues and is starting to seem indefinite though. That, plus my few years doing research warned me against this version of the story which so easily fit into the reasons behind why we are here at SKIP.
But he has a point. The thing is that the valuable work that SKIP is doing does not match the feat they are facing. SKIP and its windmills. Because did I mention that SKIP helps children go to PUBLIC schools? Where had I read before coming that in Peru there is free primary education for all? Ah in the Constitution. “It is more complicated than that,” I am told when demanding to know more about this. “But who pays for schools, who allocates the money, under which formula” and the answers get more and more contradictory.
Peru’s infamous low-quality education with an international test in 2000 which placed Peru last out of 43 countries, can be mostly blamed to the extremely low expenditures per student in Peru. In fact, Peru’s public spending on education is low, around 3 percent of GDP and still below than the Latin American average.
So who pays for the school if the government doesn’t? Families. A recent study on the role of families on education in Peru concluded that almost one third of the cost of having children in public schools comes from the families’ pockets. This cost includes books, uniforms and school materials, financing of other school activities, apart from matriculation fees and payments which need to be made to the parents association, called Asociacion de Padres de Familia (APAFA).
Public utilities, additional teachers and capital and consumer goods and costs of school maintenance have to be paid from sources such as APAFA or local and international organizations. This is where SKIP comes in.
The indefinite strike that teachers have now declared since July 5th is a good reminder of how the problem of education in Peru runs deep into entrenched interests and into a labyrinth of obstacles and proposals. All of which fail to acknowledge that the main losers are the kids. They who do not have a voice in the conflict between the government and the teachers.
So then again, my friend is right: a way to change what we feel is unjust is to focus on what is feasible, in these kids who need us, who are coming to our Talleres de Teatro and Manualidades every day, workshops we created to replace the vacumm left by the strikes.
Still, I believe we should not cease to look further beyond SKIP and understand that what we are actually working for is for the recognition of the right of every children to have a good education. Change can happen but maybe there are many ways for it to happen. Just as Borges wrote of a man who set out to draw the world only to discover, just before dying, that what he was drawing traced the line of his own face. Maybe change also has the face of the person who sets out to generate it.
Posted By Jessica Boccardo
Posted Jul 16th, 2007