My time in Cusco was an absolute dream. I got to go to Andahuaylillas and visit the school Fe y Alegria and the after school program Ludoteca, participate in an Andean Ritual and visit a sustainable house, visit the Pisac ruins, hike Machu Picchu and the trail to the sun gates, and I was able to do that with my amazing best friends that I made on this trip. I have learned a lot, but one major detail that I learned was that the Andean context is much different than the Lima context, especially in schools.
Fe y Alegria is a school run by the Jesuits in the “downtown” area of Andahuaylillas. Fe y Alegria is not the actual school name, but it is used as an overarching name for 23 primary schools and 5 secondary schools all throughout Cusco, but we visited the one in Andahuaylillas. Fe y Alegria’s school motive goes beyond education, but goes towards being a school for the parents as well. The school starts by being taught in Quechua until the third grade, then it starts bilingual schooling in Spanish. One question that arose to me after learning of the bilingual school is: why make it a bilingual school instead of a dual language school? Dual Language Immersion Programs: A Cautionary Note Concerning the Education of Language-Minority Students by Guadalupe Valdes states that dual-language programs bring two different language groups together. By having the students learn Quechua first then having bilingual schooling in Spanish, they are not bringing two languages together, they are incorporating the two languages in the students’ schooling.
One major difference I saw between the culture of Lima and the culture of the Andes is that the Andean culture is more celebrated in everyday life. From the second we arrived in Cusco, we saw parades of people in the center of town. We saw children dancing wearing their colorful clothing. That vibrant sense of culture stayed with us all throughout our time in Cusco, and we got to see how culture affects schooling in Andahuaylillas at Fe y Alegria.
The Andean school context is very rich in Quechua culture and that is what makes schooling unique in that way. Quechua is the Andean language that is looked down at by many cities in Peru, but it is important to keep that culture alive because it comes with many religious and festive attributes that is all over Cusco. The students at Fe y Alegria learn to love speaking Quechua, but also learn to love and appreciate the people that do not. That is another difference that I saw between an Andean school and a Lima school, because in Lima, English is pushed as a second language to Spanish.
The students at Fe y Alegria have much more hardships relating to school then the students of Lima that we visited. The students walk about 2–3 miles to go to primary school, and since that walk increases to 4 hours when going to secondary school, there is a huge drop of students to continue. 30% of women continue to secondary school since the walk is so long and dangerous that there is fear of being alone, facing violence, and being a victim of rape. The only schools in Lima that I visited with that concern is the schools in El Augustino and IE Tupac Amaru, while La Inmaculada and Roosevelt, being the wealthier schools, have no problem with school transportation.
I wish I got to spend more time in Fe y Alegria and Ludoteca because the education differed in a cultural way than in Lima where to me, the education was focused on a way to become educated to get a job. Fe y Alegria and Ludoteca really focused on helping the students build their relationship to Quechua and using that relationship to better understand their purpose in the world. I want to say that I believe that education in the Andes is equal to education in Lima in that way, but in my opinion, schools in Lima are built to mold their students for jobs, instead of molding students to become the best they can be culturally and educationally. I do want to make clear that the living situation of the students is completely different in the Andes and Lima, and that also plays an affect in why the schools in the Andes learn more about culture and why schools in Lima learn more about working.
After reviewing my time in Peru, I thought back to the article that we read, A Voluntourist’s Dilemma by Jacob Kushner. This article has stayed in the back of my mind for the whole trip, because I wanted to make sure that I/ anyone did not feel like I was only here to volunteer and to try to fix the different educational gaps in Peru. I did not go to Peru to take pictures with Peruvian children and tell the world that I am saving them. I did not come to Peru to have a privilege check. I came to Peru to simply learn how I can be a better teacher in the United States. I firmly believe that everything I learned from my time in classrooms in Peru will benefit my life, my classrooms, and my students in the future.
I have learned so much from being in Peru, and I cannot even put into words on how grateful I am for this experience. I have learned how to combine and appreciate different cultures in my classroom through the schools in Lima and Cusco. I have learned how to take different home lives and incorporate them into the students’ learning. I have learned the real meaning of equity vs. equality, and I now know how to make my classroom an equitable classroom, a classroom that is fair and impartial.
If you have the chance to come on this trip, DO IT. I am so thankful of what I have learned, and I am so proud of who I have become.