The radical measures outlined in Peru's new education law are now undergoing intense public debate.?
The radical measures outlined in Peru's new education law are now undergoing intense public debate. Education Minister General Carpic Becerra has said: "The commitment of the new law is with the poor." It stresses the importance of adequate nutrition and health care as part of initial education describing "The Peruvian child in the great majority" as a "victim of the syndrome of poverty, the symptoms of which include malnutrition and consequent physical weakness, poor health and lack of concentration".
It authorises bilingual education - i.e. Spanish plus a vernacular language - emphasizing the educational significance of national languages "to preserve the authentic values of local culture". All teachers from now on, as part of their training, must learn a vernacular language mainly the Indian languages of Quechua and Aymara. Teaching in the vernacular is seen as part of literacy programmes and as a means of teaching Spanish eventually to everyone. The law is particularly aimed at the hundreds of thousands of children of the Sierra (high Andean regions) who are monolingual in Quechua, who cannot or do not go to school, and don't learn much i f they do. The law allows, it says, "the optimum use of all the resources of educational potential within each territorial area"...but in the country's South-Western province of Puno most of the laws ideas have already put into practice and most of the practice has marked Puno out as the pacemakers in an education structure which has not found its feet in the rest of the country. In this, the women's and children's education is making the most dramatic impact.
Organisers of Puno's education programme are "Caritas" - an international Roman Catholic relief organisation whose Puno branch began in 1964 with the aim of integrating the scattered and inward-looking village communities. Now they run 46 communities operating on a cooperative system each in which a children's school and feeding centre acts as the pivot for farming specialisation or artisans work. Some 4,000 peasant children attend these schools from the age of 0 to eight years old. They are drawn from the Quechua and Aymara Indian communities - most of them living in the 12,000 - feet high mountain plateau. There are 10 kindergartens totalling almost 1,000 pupils. Peasant leaders have been encouraged to organise baby-???itting groups. There are now 34 of these looking after about 3,000 children. Caritas have declared they want to change the peasant man's "economic concept of his children and his patriarchal authoritarianism over women" who are required to submit to an inferior role. Mothers join their children at classes. In each community, there is a "mother club" with a programme embracing reading and writing in Spanish, personal and general hygiene, nutrition, first aid, family education, improvement of the home, recreation and cooking.
Children's education is also highly politicised. Caritas sets up the educational framework but the government pays for and often supplies teachers. No effort is spared to make the children acquire an increased "consciousness" of the peruvian revolution.