Removing obstacles to Education in Ecuador

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Approaching 10,000 feet of altitude in the central highlands of Ecuador, the morning frost has yet to melt as Kapak Chimbolema walks with his mother to take the livestock out to graze before trekking to school. His marbles rattle in his pocket with each stride of his right leg, and he mulls over whether or not he’ll finally try and shoot one at his 5th-grade teacher today. At least it might get him kicked out of class so he can play soccer with his older cousins who are skipping school that day. For Kapak and most of the kids in his community,  A school is just a place you go because your parents make you, a sentiment pretty much any kid in the US can relate to. But in many respects, for Kapak and all the kids in his community, that’s about all it will amount to in the end. No one from Kapak’s community has gone to a college or university in decades. A while back the government imposed a law requiring English proficiency for entrance into higher education, which for Kapak would be his 3rd language after Kichwa and Spanish. And even though most of the folks in the community of Balda Lupaxí would jump at the chance to learn English and go to college, the lack of English teachers in the country and the lack of federal funding for rural schools means the only way to have a chance at being anything other than a subsistence farmer is to move to the city and forfeit their family’s land. Many families, seeking a better life for their children, send them to live in Riobamba, the nearest city, putting the oldest in charge. This not only breaks up families but leaves the agricultural burden on the parents who often struggle to subsist on what they can grow without the help of their family.

 

 


This is the reality for the youth of rural communities throughout Ecuador and especially the central highlands where 95% of indigenous people live in poverty with little chance of ever escaping. In response to this crisis, three Kichwa community leaders along with a US volunteer founded Fundación Yanapak Yachachikuna (FYYChE) in 2017 in order to address education concerns in the indigenous communities of Chimborazo, Ecuador with the goal of empowering the youth of these communities with the choice of higher education while maintaining community sovereignty and indigenous culture.


“Yanapak Yachachikuna” is Kichwa for “Servant Teachers,” describing the true role of our volunteers. Service to others with no strings attached, using our privilege for the liberation and equity of all peoples. Unlike the vast majority of education initiatives teaching language and arts in Ecuador, FYYChE is directed by Kichwa leadership, serving Kichwa communities. Volunteer English teachers come live in the communities and teach in the local schools, living as compañeros (loosely translated as “comrade” or “partner”) alongside community members. The curriculum must meet government guidelines but is designed in collaboration with Kichwa teachers and community members.


FYYChE is in its first school year as a legal non-profit and is currently serving the communities of Balda Lupaxí and Cebadas. Our goals for this year’s growth are the construction of a headquarters and tutoring space to serve as an office for our leadership as well as a place we can receive volunteers and other tourist groups for fundraising purposes, the recruitment of 5 volunteers for the 2018-2019 school year so we can include the communities of Pull and Galte in our network, and the organization of an English and Kichwa language summer camp for the surrounding communities (another reason we need a common physical space).


If you would like more information about FYYChE, serving with us, or helping us meet our fundraising goal for building the community space, please contact Aaron Stapel at aaron@highlandpartners.org 

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Ben Blevins