Visit to Intercultural School at Puerto Firmeza sponsored by Alianza Arkana

Since April 2011, Alianza Arkana has been supporting the school to create eight different, spatially-based educational zones so that the students learn about their indigenous culture – its cosmovision, traditions, stories, childhood games, language, food production, relationship with nature – in a direct, experiential way. Typical classroom-based learning will occur in one of these eight zones.

The school currently has 22 young kids in kindergarten, 56 in primary education, and 32 in secondary education. This number is expected to grow as already other Shipibo families are moving to Puerto Firmeza to take advantage of the growing reputation of the quality of the education being offered there.

The school embodies an integrated, far-reaching, innovative vision of what a truly intercultural or bilingual education means in practice, which comes from its Director, Luis Piñedo Marquéz, who has over twenty years working in the field of intercultural education in a variety of different roles.

On arrival at the school, Luis warmly greeted us, along with members of his teaching staff and representatives of the community. Luis had organized a general assembly of the school where we were presented to all the students. This was a very moving occasion, where Luis, one of the teachers and an older student talked about the importance of this project for their students.

Brian and I addressed the students – Brian very impressively talking in Shipibo, which caused great amusement and interest for the students – there are not so many gringos who speak Shipibo!

After the assembly, we went to visit each classroom. Luis, as well as being the overall School Director, also teaches the primary school class Grades 4-6. His classroom was noteworthy for being decorated with representations of the Shipibo cosmovision. Overall, throughout the school, and especially in Luis’ classroom, there was a sense of care for the physical environment.

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After visiting the classrooms, we went to look at the progress of work in the other educational zones. A wide path has been cleared by a bulldozer through the jungle behind the school, which now reaches the area where a fish farm will be built. This path will be the central spine from which the ground will be cleared either side and zones of medicinal plants, fruit trees, and food crops will be planted, using the labor of the community. In addition, a zone will be created with two traditional malokas where the children will participate in cultural activities under the guidance of Elders from the community.

Talking more with Luis, it is clear that his plan for the school encompasses its role as a catalyst for community development. He envisions that the school will also be the base for an eco-tourism project in which people can come to Puerto Firmeza to participate in shamanic ceremonies in a maloka (temple). This will be built on an island in the middle of the fish farm. The bridge to the maloka will be constructed in the shape of an anaconda, which people will enter through its mouth.

PHOTO_3_yendo_a_la_asembleaThis project is important not only for the local community at Puerto Firmeza but also because we plan for it to be a model for schools in other Shipibo communities. So far, Alianza Arkana has contributed around $5,000 USD to help create the basic infrastructure for the eight different zones.

We need an additional $20,000USD for materials to help build and complete the infrastructure for the eight zones. The local community will be contributing its labor. We will be releasing much more information about this important project over the coming months.

For further information, please contact paul at alianzaarkana dot org

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Deborah Rivett, Thursday, 01 September 2011

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