On April 26th and 27th, the first event on ‘Innovation in Intercultural Education’ was held at the Shipibo school in Puerto Firmeza – a strategic educational project for Alianza Arkana. This two-day event was organized by the Director of the school, Luis Márquez Pinedo, who was co-featured in a recent article.
All the key stakeholders in the school attended the meeting – the school’s teachers, community authorities, other community members including elders and the woman leading the craft cooperative, a student representative from each class at secondary level, and five members of Alianza Arkana. The only key group absent was the regional Ministry of Education.
The purpose of the two days was to:
- Explain the school’s vision in more detail to the different stakeholders – especially the role that permaculture is taking in the school, under the new leadership of permaculture specialist,Marcos Urquia.
- Provide a forum to discuss the progress of the school and further develop the vision with the involvement and commitment of the teachers, students and local community.
- Enable stakeholders to get to know one another better and build more effective working relationships.
- Develop the intercultural curriculum of the school.
Luis Marquez began the meeting with a detailed account of his plan to incorporate the cosmovision of the Shipibo people in all educational activities at the school.
Whilst the Peruvian Government, together with other countries, are fulfilling their legal obligations to provide intercultural bilingual education, this usually means simply complying with providing a certain number of classes in the indigenous language.
Luis, in contrast, wants his school to be providing students with an in-depth knowledge of their culture, and in so doing, to strengthen and validate the cultural identity of the young people. At the same time, they will receive the best of a traditional Western-based education, as they will also need this to succeed in an increasingly globalized world.
For Luis, the point is to move beyond theory and rhetoric, and create a functioning example of what true intercultural bilingual education means in practice. This school can then offer a model for other schools in the region and across the country.
In the afternoon, Marcos Urquia – a Shipibo permaculture specialist recently employed by Alianza Arkana – spoke of how permaculture is being developed at the school and within the community, to support and strengthen Luis’ s vision of an authentic intercultural bilingual education.
Students at the three levels of the school – kindergarten, primary and secondary – are planting traditional food crops, medicinal plants, fruit trees, and creating a plant nursery, chicken, duck and fish farm. In so doing, not only are they learning the skills required to grow food, and their culture’s traditional forms of agriculture and animal raising, but also creative ways are being found to teach subjects like mathematics, biology, English, geography etc.
Importantly, therefore, the school will be helping provide food security to this community. A significant number of children are suffering from malnutrition and will benefit from good, nutritious food grown at the school. Moreover, the skills the students learn at school can be taken into their homes through the creation of small food-producing orchards on each family’s land.
On the morning of the second day, Brian Best, Director of Community Based Solutions for Alianza Arkana, spoke about the waste management projects Alianza Arkana has successfully implemented in a number of Shipibo communities. His talk generated much interest in the community to set up a similar project in Puerto Firmeza.
In August, two young German volunteers from GIZ – the German Government agency of International Cooperation – will begin work with Alianza Arkana. One will be based at the school in Puerto Firmeza and the other will be dedicated to waste management projects in the local municipality of Yarina, in which Puerto Firmeza is located.
Our plan is that they work together, under the supervision of Brian Best, to create a waste management program in the community of Puerto Firmeza. The ground could not now be more fertile in which to initiate and implement this project.
The event ended with an activity that was organized in which people divided into the various stakeholder groups and put forward proposals on how to further develop the vision. This generated a number of good ideas, such as having the students involved in the evaluation of the teachers – a radical departure from the traditional top-down approach of the Ministry of Education.
Overall, the event was a great success. To me, as an organizational development consultant, perhaps the most significant achievement was creating a group of people, with a common understanding of the vision of the school, now committed to the realization and practice of this vision.
Friday, 25 May 2012