Written by Olivia Bastin
As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. As Victor Hugo said, “He who opens a school door closes a prison”. And as Anthony J D’Angelo said, “Develop a passion for learning. If you do you will never cease to grow”. Education is an integral tool which enables us to understand the world we live in, fathom who we are, and create a brighter future for all of us. It is easy to take education for granted despite it being a luxury in some parts of the world. It is easy enough to think I’ll skip a lecture or a class if deadlines are getting to be too much however, we are lucky to be receiving education in the first place. When strolling along Market street to a class in the Quad remember that some children have to walk miles to school, cross dangerous parts of a city everyday just to receive an education, or are not even seen as worth educating due to cultural concepts regarding the importance of their gender. This is the harsh reality of education, race, gender, socio-economic background, culture, politics and geography which play a major role in the imbalance of access to education all over the world.
Peru is located in Western South America. Their main export is gold and copper, yet it is important to bear in mind that 54 per cent of the population live below the poverty line. However, due to socio- economic growth poverty has declined over recent years. Education in Peru is mandatory for children aged 7 to 16 and secondary education is free, yet only 3 out of 10 children continue onto higher education. However, there is a big disparity between education in urban and rural areas. For example, the population is around 30 million and 22 per cent live in rural areas.
In Pampa Coris, rural inhabitants do not have the same access to education that their city dwelling counterparts do. To take classes, children have to gather around the one WiFi router they have. Given the current global pandemic their classes have been put on hold. Normally they would walk miles to get to school through challenging terrain. These schools are not well equipped, and children of all ages are put into one class. The teachers are paid very little and are expected to know Quechan – an indigenous language linking back to pre-colonial Peru and to the Incan Empire. Nealy 56 per cent of students in rural areas are not provided education in their mother tongue. Teachers get very little notice, are not able to extensively plan classes in advance, and are constantly worried about being fired. Education is much harder to access than it would be in Lima.
I am part of a project with the Hispanic Society where I teach English to students from one of these communities. They are the sweetest children and their curiosity to learn is astounding. They crowd around my laptop and all want to speak at once. They are adorable and I am so grateful to be learning more about their culture and lives. The good news is the government is taking steps to reduce poverty and increase access to education. Peru’s Ministry of Education has put forward the Alternate Education for Rural Development. This project has helped nearly 3000 children in 40 rural schools in 11 regions. Other charities also help promote education like Peruvian Hearts. They help Peruvian girls attend high school and university by offering them large financial scholarships. But is this enough? There is still a large disparity where rural communities suffer more than urban communities.
In conclusion, Peru has a large gap in providing access to education in rural and urban places. Many children in rural locations trudge through treacherous landscapes to turn up to classes which are not even in their native language, where they are then bundled together with other kids of all ages. How is this fair? All children should have equal access to education; it is integral in terms of improving one’s situation and personal development. Education enables us to see the world through another perspective- we can see their world, but can they see other worlds? Education is a human right and no child should be denied access to it because of where they live.