A Discussion with Florencio Colquehuanca, Daniel Luque Kea, and Adelio Patty, Parents Involved with the Yatiqañ Uta, Trinidad Pampa, Bolivia

July 25, 2012

Background: As part of the Education and Global Social Justice Project, in July 2012 undergraduate student Lisa Frank interviewed three parents involved with Fe y Alegría Bolivia. Florencio Colquehuanca, who is from the Sanfélix community and has an 18-year-old daughter in secondary school, has been involved with the Yatiqañ Uta for 15 years. Daniel Luque Kea is from Marquirivi, has two children in the program in the fourth and eighth grades, and has been involved for seven years now. Adelio Patty’s son was at the Yachay Wasi for one year, and now his nephew is there. José Paucara was also present. Fe y Alegría Bolivia's Yatiqañ Uta (in Aymara, Yachay Wasi in Quechua) is a residential education program that aims to give children in rural areas the opportunity to continue their education through secondary school. While living in the Yachay Wasi, the students engage in cleaning, agriculture, and formation. In the Yachay Wasi in Trinidad Pampa, there are 56 students and three educators. During the interview the parents discuss the skills their children have learned at the Yachay Wasi, the challenges in finding ongoing support for high quality teaching and building maintenance, options for continuing education through the Yachay Wasi and beyond, and the need to improve students' access to technology.

How did you choose to enroll your children in the Yachay Wasi?

Florencio Colquehuanca: Fe y Alegría’s help to the community was very good, until the president changed the system of agreements with schools and programs. We do not have much support now because they cut our agreements. Before, the students were well-fed and had more than two educators. We had an agronomist, an engineer, but we no longer do. This past year we had only one coordinator. Fe y Alegría does not have salaries for educators. We're kind of in a crisis, and we are looking for resources.

The mayor doesn’t want to help us either. "No funds," they say. Before, they provided between 40,000 and 80,000 [bolivianos] for the two Yachay Wasis, but they don’t anymore. Our coordinator has presented papers, but they don’t want to help us now. It makes us sad as parents, and very worried; our children worry, too. Before there was better coordination between the Yachay Wasi and the school if a child needed help with a subject. Professors would come up to help and get dinner or a cup of tea, but for now, we cannot give them anything because there are not enough resources.

Earlier, when I entered the program, I knew from Radio Yungas that this was the best school, this program of Fe y Alegría in Trinidad Pampa. A team that seemed to work well, no? Later on the children returned and helped us with our gardens and around the house. Those who graduated earlier couldn’t go on to university, but now they can. The older graduates work in chicken farms, with vegetables, agriculture. The first thing they teach them there is how to learn, and now our children learn trades too. We have a technician here, Bartolomé, who has been here about five years. Some learn trades from him, but there isn’t enough time, or space, or educators for everyone. Some only stay here a year; they needed to finish school, but we want to form [them] as professional technicians as well. Not everyone goes to college, so they should use the time they have and learn how to grow some vegetables, carpentry, or something that serves in the field. But as we have no money, where can we go look for resources? We need more educators so that the children can go on to be senior technicians. This program is alone, like an orphan. Neither the School Board helps us, nor do the communities care about us.

We are from nearly 20 communities, and all the leaders met to create the Yachay Wasi, but we did not receive much support. The infrastructure is bad now. The paint isn’t good, some windows need to be changed, and we as parents do all that. Before, Fe y Alegría sustained us, including the lights, but now parents pay, even for food.

Daniel Luque Kea: I also decided to enroll my kids before. My children have studied here and have left high school, but it was nicer before. They took good care of the kids. But as time has passed, things have gotten worse. I have experience with my daughter who is studying medicine, back when the experience was fine. They also had more control because there were several teachers here. The sisters [from the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus] also went up, but there are no sisters to help teach kids. I would like us to have help in fixing that. In another boarding school, which is in San Martin, the students graduate, and the sisters help them study computer science and other things, but not here. We want more teachers, for both girls and boys. Sometimes kids are distracted from their education or don’t bother, so it would be nice to have one more for control. Before, there were several educators keeping everyone on track.

Did you also have technical education?

Luque Kea: Yes, I have learned much from this program. My babies are learning, and I am too. Sometimes, when the kids leave here, they already know some things, but what they have learned, they practice and teach the younger ones. I myself practice what I'm learning. The kids, when they come home, now don’t say “Give me food.” They prepare it because they have learned to prepare, cook, and serve. I have a boy and he does all that, and washes the baby clothes, makes his bed, and that's good.

And you, Don Florencio, do you also see these changes in your children?

Colquehuanca: Yes, back when we weren’t at this school, they didn’t help around the house. Once my son had returned to the house after 15 days here, he said, "Dad, you have to put the house in order and clean." We have learned from that. Now my children are gone, leaving Fe y Alegría; four are high school graduates. One entered and did not finish and is working in the field, but he still says, "Dad, we have to clean and do things this way." He starts cleaning on Sundays, as we have no time. But when we do have time, we also help clean. But before, when we were not in Fe y Alegría, it was not like this. Now he cooks, goes up on the roof to fix things, and does many things that he didn’t do before.

Luque Kea: The elders in the program are leading the younger, saying what to do, how to do it. Beds, linens, cooking, how to make bread and prepare food. That is taught pretty well. In these seven years, we’ve taken advantage of this part.

Also at the meetings, the children learn to express themselves. We also, as fathers of families, we meet and we express our needs too. We talk about what’s missing; we worry and plan. Fe y Alegría has educated us too.

[Adelio Patty arrives.]

José Paucara: Don Adelio, how did you decide to send your child to the Yatiqañ Uta here?

Adelio Patty: Last year my son was here because sometimes in the family, it feels like we have too many children. Thus, my son wanted to be here, and I thought, "Great." It was his decision to come up here. I agreed, and then my son, thanks to the Yachay Wasi, has been able to put his life more in order. Now he knows how to fulfill his responsibilities on time. In a year he’s learned that. He decided not to go this year because there are many obligations at school, but this year my nephew is here. I'm in charge of my nephew. My brother is not well, so he decided that his son should go up here, under my responsibility.

This program has trained children, and the parents also work. We do what needs to be done. Sometimes it's hard to get money, but we respond with work. We’re united.

Could you tell me more about the work you all do?

Luque Kea: Yes, we have meetings to decide what is necessary. For example, this year we had the help of the Colegio San Ignacio. I liked that they came; I think it went well. I was here every day working with them to build the steps.

Colquehuanca: I also came to work. We made a pool up above, and we’ve worked on other things other years.

Luque Kea: We have a meeting, a compromise when school starts each year, saying we're going to have three days of work. But this is as needed, so the work can take up to five or seven days, depending. Painting, fixing the windows and furniture... Everything is a compromise. When the year ends, we return to evaluate the work and plan what we will do next year.

Colquehuanca: This year we are discussing the perimeter wall, because our kids always lose their clothes. We care because when they go to school, the house is empty and there are strangers, or neighbors, who will steal clothes. Right now the house is completely open, and we want to make a wall for that. We have clothes but also computers, texts, and anything can happen. This school is alone, but it’s ours, so we have to do something even if we don’t get help.

There are nearly 60 children, sometimes more, and when all are showering in the morning sometimes they run out of water, so we need to fix that.

What are some more problems to be faced to make this a better education?

Patty: Here, there are problems with the space, which is not very good. It should be more comfortable. Adolescence is an important time, and it’s too difficult. We need computers and computer classes, and also we lack a complete library. In this program, as my brothers said, we are like orphans, without the help of the mayor. Village leaders also don’t help us. Everything is done by the parents.

Luque Kea: We also don’t have a full kitchen. We have a kitchen, but it’s deteriorated a bit. Also a nicer dining room would be good. We need a dining room and a full kitchen, and we have to improve the bakery. Before this place was better, but now we don’t have the money. We used to have good access to Radio Yungas, and the teachers would go to Coripata or Coroico for research, but not anymore. We also don’t have good channels for information; the reception’s not good enough here. The children should know what is happening here and in the city. Now when they come down to school the next day they ask, but there isn’t good information because we don’t have antennae.

On the other hand, what are some of the best parts of this experience?

Colquehuanca: Our children have received a good education. But on the other hand my brothers are saying we need support, and a teacher who is a strong voice for our children. We don’t have that. Perhaps a psychologist would be good for our children too. The environment’s okay but can always better. Same goes for carpentry and other trades. The problem is, who can help us with this part? The leaders plan, but we have no funds. We try to work to make things better, but the problem is that often there are no funds. When there are, we do something.

Patty: Other than that, in reality with where we are now, the most important thing is public speaking. We want the young people to lose their fear of expressing themselves. Shyness is a very big problem that we have. Seeing my son, he’s not as shy as before coming here and can express himself better. We want the teacher to help our children strengthen their skills, because they study many subjects, but they have to go to the city to study other things like physics, for example. Some take advantage of this opportunity, but it’s difficult. They learn well now, but with help it would be better. We are in crisis now, and we have nowhere to go.

Luque Kea: There’s another school about 45 minutes from here. Maybe we can make an agreement with them. Now, to do a pre-university program in La Paz takes almost three months. Maybe it’d be possible to form a partnership with them, or with El Alto. Here they can study agronomy, veterinary studies, and nursing in Carmen Pampa. To do anything else, we’d need a new partnership. Agronomy is definitely needed here in rural areas. Tourism could also be important in this region. Our kids are very capable, but there aren’t many opportunities. Who could coordinate this part with us? How can it be done? We also worry about providing for our kids, but here we are, and this is what we need to work with.

[Paucara explains the conflict in the community of Choro, which was divided into two, and how the collaboration between communities occurred before this time.]

What are some of the most serious problems in your communities, and what can education do to improve conditions?

Patty: That is a very delicate matter. The community does not have problems. We are humble and hardworking, but this community of Choro, it is a problem. There was a serious problem, and it was painful for the children to see that. We talked at home with the children, but in a house if there are problems, it becomes very difficult. In another community, Chacón, there are also political problems.

Let me explain again. I was thinking more if there are problems, for example, to find work here, and to what extent education can help?

Colquehuanca: When my daughter graduated from here, she was better prepared.

Luque Kea: There are other schools in Santo Toribio and San Calixto. Fe y Alegría teachers can help in studying other careers, and there are half scholarships and full scholarships. Some of our children are left in the field and work, but others have this affinity to study. Those who want to study, they need help. Others do not take an interest in our children. In other communities there are scholarships, but here, not so much. Some do not want to study further, but others do, and some now in their third year are curious and capable. The best students can go on, and those who don’t have good grades stay here.

Do you know if your children want to continue their education?

Luque Kea: Yes, I talked to my son, and he wants to continue studying. He wants to study other subjects and careers. Right now he’s taking courses in Coripata. In this aspect, the teachers or the principal must show them what careers there are. For us, if they want to study, we support them. If not, we cannot force them, and so they stay here. I do not want them to ever blame me and say, "I wanted to study, and you did not support me."

Patty: For my part, I have four children, and they know what it’s like to live in the countryside. What happens is that in the city, there is a lot of discrimination. Students who are from the countryside and rural areas find that there. They are capable and intelligent, but this discrimination affects them psychologically. There should be a house where students can live like this program, but for university students. In the city, it’s easy for those who want to study to enroll, but once you leave here after graduation, it is very difficult to get into the bigger, better schools. There is the issue of money, the father and mother get tired, and there are other things that influence the kids, and they wind up staying here.

Colquehuanca: My children are studying. My daughter has a grant from the sisters, and took advantage of this. She’s in her last year of studying for her degree in surgery. She no longer has time to come home because she’s always studying, but I'm glad because I've been here many years with Fe y Alegría, and she will soon have her degree thanks to them. It’s changed, but before this program was good, when the sisters helped. We need teachers. A teacher can’t have this many students. We need more to guide the kids in their studies.

Patty: I ask you, sister, that Fe y Alegría get stronger and move forward. I remember before my daughter studied here. Sure, children had to study, but already things have changed. Since Fe y Alegría came, the teachers have become very good. The kids don’t get off track like before. Now things are okay, but we want Fe y Alegría to get stronger. We've heard rumors that Fe y Alegría might leave and that makes me sad, because if Fe y Alegría leaves, it’ll go back to how it was before. Thanks to Fe y Alegría, many students have left here and become professionals.

You mentioned that before Fe y Alegría came here, education was very different, right? Could you tell me about your experiences with other educational programs, and what distinguishes Fe y Alegría?

Luque Kea: Our contract with the state and Fe y Alegría is different. Maybe it’s the state’s goal of having more technical training; they’re changing to another method of education. We want our children to graduate as senior technicians or continue studying. Fe y Alegría has a vision, and there is already another vision being discussed, and we can move ahead on this part with technical education. We have Bartolomé, but there’s no one in the regular school. It should be coordinated to have more technical training in the school and more choices.

There is also the problem of discrimination. About 50 percent of teachers here are from urban areas, and before Fe y Alegría, it was even more. But once the teachers got tired of being here, they’d go back to the cities. When a teacher challenges them, our children do well. We need teachers who are a little stricter with them.

I also wanted to discuss values education. What do your children learn that is related to values and leadership?

Colquehuanca: When my son came here, he began to think, to learn what he hadn’t learned at home, to work, get up on time, collect his things, keep clean... It was very dramatic change. Children who have not gone to the Yachay Wasi are following his lead, and so they learn and develop too. We’re developing new capabilities too. My son learns and teaches us. We’ve changed our habits a lot, like putting our shoes away.

Do you think that your children would learn these things in a regular school?

Colquehuanca: You learn when you’re away from home. With distance, whether it’s here or in the city, my children learn. In the Yachay Wasis, because of the diversity and the values of St. Ignatius, they learn more. But they learn well in the Yachay Wasi as well as in the school.

Luque Kea: It’s all shared, no? At school they say to do something for homework, and the educators here make sure it happens. There is no difference between the school and the Yachay Wasi: they’re together.

Colquehuanca: They practice what they teach down here. There is a difference between students of the Yachay Wasi and other schools. Those who are here always say, "Good afternoon, uncle," [1] but those from other schools don’t. They keep on walking without saying anything. But there are differences between the students themselves returning from boarding school. They are a bit cleaner. They say you have to take a shower, and that old dirty clothing should be cleaned. Others throw their clothes out when they get too dirty but not here. That’s a difference we've seen. The students of the Yachay Wasi are always respectful.

In my community, the students are split. One half is here, the other half in the Yachay Wasi in San Juan, and some go to La Paz or other parts, but you can see the difference between those who are in a Yachay Wasi and those who aren’t.

In your communities, Don Florencio and Don Adelio, are the students divided among several programs?

Patty: In our communities there is no secondary education, just the primary grades. In the centers like here, there are, which is why they come. Due to a lack of students, we don’t have high school. If our communities weren’t so small, we would have more courses and materials, but now there's nowhere to get resources for that.

Colquehuanca: In my community there’s up to sixth grade, and then they have to go to Trinidad Pampa to study.

Luque Kea: In my community there’s also through sixth grade, with three teachers. My eldest son is in San Juan. I didn’t like how the people there talked, so I took him out and all my other kids are in the Yachay Wasi here. Each one decided to come here. Now that people know about Fe y Alegría’s education, many send their kids here. Twenty percent go to other schools, but 80 percent are with Fe y Alegría. They participate in the community, and the students contribute and say how we should do things. They work hard and can be leaders already. They come back from school as community leaders.

Patty: Sometimes with the work we do every day, morning, afternoon, and evening, it can be hard to feed our kids. When our children are here in the Yachay Wasi Fe y Alegría feeds them, but it needs to be improved. But still, they’re here all day with food and with the teachers, while we work. If we do not work, they can’t study; there’d be nothing for our children.

What type of work do you do?

Luque Kea: Agriculture—we just grow coca.

Colquehuanca: The child who does not study, and they see how we work, and we say, "If you do not study, you will be stuck here working," and so they continue with their studies. The older students talk to the younger ones and help them. With Fe y Alegría things are going well. They express themselves more, have lost a bit of shyness, are involved, and behave well. That's what I like.

Speaking of other things, do you receive the Bono Juancinto Pinto [a voucher for school-age children] from the government, and how do you use it?

Patty: Yes, that bonus for the children is welcome, and it's nice to give it to them at the beginning of class. Sometimes they keep it and say they will buy something or other. It is very difficult to take it from the child. If the child gets 200 bolivianos of the bonus, they’ll count it morning and night, saying, "Here is my money." They go on Christmas holidays, or else save it for clothes and other things. But the kids are older now, and now they don’t get it; it’s only until the seventh or eighth grade. I would rather have it be for all of them.

Luque Kea: The kids buy clothes, shoes, or sometimes they pool their money for a bicycle.

Patty: When school started, we bought supplies like notebooks, markers, and they save some of it for other necessities.

Colquehuanca: Since my son gets the bonus himself, he says, "Look, I’ll save it," or, "I'm going to buy a bicycle," or, "I'll buy the backpack," another year's markers, clothing, toys...it’s hard to decide. Whatever they see a need for, they buy. Or they get together: one year they pooled their money to buy a bike, but the next year said, "No, I have a bike. I'll buy something else."

Patty: Last year, he bought a little pig. He raised it and sold it to make a little money. This year we did the same, but the pig died. But still he learns to be responsible. I have always helped them, but this bonus helps us; it is very difficult to feed the family and purchase school supplies otherwise.

Is there anything else that you would like to tell me?

Patty: Yes, that you be a spokeswoman for us. We don’t know much about the Yachay Wasi in San Juan, but here the campus is completely open. We want a wall, an electric oven...there are many needs. At school too: more teachers, computers. For us it is difficult to get money. Sometimes if I give money, another doesn’t, even though his son benefits. Then the project fails. So I want you to be a spokeswoman, to collaborate with other institutions. Not only us, there are other schools, that are like orphans too. Our lives are unfortunate. Thank you.

Luque Kea: As we’re talking about the future, I ask that Fe y Alegría think ahead more. For example we have computers, but not with internet. Now our children have to go to Coroico or Coripata for research, and so do the teachers. Also there are banks in Coripata, and they can help. Banks sometimes pay the salaries of teachers or help them go to La Paz to study. I would like Fe y Alegría to look into this a little bit, and also technology.

Our children finish their studies, but our community doesn’t help them. They tell us to ask Fe y Alegría for help, but it’d be nice to know for sure how things will be each year, and what programs we’re going to have. Then we could say to our brothers, "This is how it’s going to be, and here your children can be leaders, or senior technicians,” but right now we do not have this assurance. We must look beyond, to parents, the department, nationally, internationally as well for help.

Our children also teach us as parents. Maybe Fe y Alegría could do some courses for parents too, and development for our communities. I participate, but I’m not good at expressing myself. We could use some workshops on speaking and communication, and leadership.

1. In Spanish, tio (uncle) is used in this case as a term of respect for an adult in the community who is not necessarily a blood relative or uncle.

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