Alma is attempting to increase the number of low-income, rural students attending university by funding a pre-university academy that will enroll approximately 80 high school students in Saturday classes in math and communications. Although public university tuition in Peru is free, rural and low-income high school students face barriers that others do not. Lengthy travelling distances to school over mountainous terrain discourage attendance. Cognitive abilities suffer from poor public school instruction and parents’ low education levels.
Parents take leading role in Academy
It was the parents’ association in Patabamba that approached Alma, requesting help to establish the academy, and the association, consisting of 115 families, is playing a leading role in organizing and implementing it. Community ownership from the start is crucial to the success of such projects. Patabama is located 30km. from Cusco in a high Andean region of extreme poverty. Included in the academy will be students from the neighbouring villages of Sihua and Q’enqo. Quechua, not Spanish, is their principal language. Illiteracy rates are extremely high. Like Canadian families, many of those in Peru understand that a university education can be the key to a successful and stable future. Thus, Alma’s goal is to provide the same access to university for these rural students as that enjoyed by students from higher socio-economic levels or by those who live in urban areas.
Courses adapted to suit students’ needs
Classes will be held in the Patabamba combined elementary/high school. Alma will fund the salaries of two professors from the highly regarded Academia Raimondi, as well as educational materials. The professors will adapt the courses to suit the specific needs of these students. Of note is that the academy will enroll an equal number of boys and girls. A small registration fee will be charged. All students must sign an agreement that they will take the entrance exam of the university of their choice upon completion of the academy’s courses. Alma is planning for long-term capacity Alma is working with local authorities from the Ministry of Education in anticipation that the Ministry will assume the costs of the project. Thus, the students from Patabamba and surrounding areas will continue to have the opportunity to become professionals, and, in doing so, increase the socio-economic levels of their families and communities, who will increasingly recognize the benefits of a higher education.