Our next stop was Kenko, a small village where Alma had set up a collectivo – school bus – to take the children to school in order to increase attendance. Unfortunately, this goal was not met, and we were there to figure out why the project didn’t work out.
As we drove through the town we noticed that there were very few people there. We drove past the school and saw no one inside. Finally, while driving on the road out of town we spoke with an elderly lady walking back into town. She explained that everyone was working in the fields, even the children, who were supposed to be in school. It was immediately clear to us that the reason for the children not being in school on that day was that the adults of Kenko preferred to have their children working.
In Sihua we were greeted by the director of the school and his assistant. The Sihua project focused on providing teachers for grades 5 and 6, which they didn’t have before the project. The project had been successful, and even pressured local authorities to provide funding for these teachers to replace Alma’s funding. Once in the director’s office, we were caught by surprise; the Assistant Director began pleading with us to restart Alma’s program. She informed us that the school was having trouble with the local authorities, and that the school needed more teachers. We did our best to defer her requests to Ian, and tried to collect as much quantitative data as possible in order to evaluate the possibility of a new project in the area. As our conversation neared its end, tremendous jet-black rainclouds sped towards us. In a silent agreement, Phil, Ocatavio and I met eyes and decided it was time to head home, and quickly. On the drive back we were pelted with rain, snow, and hail. The rainy season announced its arrival.
Reflecting on the day, Phil and I spoke in depth about the three divergent outcomes of the projects we had visited.
In Patabamba, the project had been a great success: seven students were now attending university or technical school, a number that had rarely been above zero in the past. Furthermore, we had witnessed a shift in the community’s perspective on education; everyone from parents to children stressed the importance of higher education.
In Kenko we witnessed a less positive outcome. Adults’ perceptions of education were different from our own. As a result, the children attended primary school minimally.
In Sihua the project worked well, but issues with local authorities continue to deter progress. It will be difficult for the children to attend university if they cannot get a proper 6th grade education.
These examples illustrate just a few of the difficulties that Alma faces in its projects. We take hope seeing students like Jose Luis, an Alma graduate and university attendee.