Tuesday, February 9, 2010

School Zone, Part 2

This is 2nd of three posts I have decided to do on my visit to a rural school in Vinto near Cochabamba, Bolivia. Yesterday I showed the surrounding countryside and shared some impressions I had about the living conditions of the students that you will be seeing today.
The photo, which I am sorry is so red, shows an Algebra class with 51 students. This school has about 450 high schoolers that attend in two shifts for a half day. Education is compulsory in Bolivia, but there is no means of enforcement. Some parents need their children's labor full time in order to survive and, many families can not afford to pay for the surprisingly costly books or supplies for even one child . The classroom has no heat for the cold winter and no cooling for the humid summer. I stayed for a while and was impressed by the dedication of the students and teacher to the learning process.
The second photo is of Rey Naldo the school principal. I found him quiet and sincere. As he shared with me the demographics of the school, he projected a gracious no nonsense tone when it came to education. The children know how important their learning is to their future, their parents and the community. The school also serves 300 elementary age children and an "after-school" program providing woodshop, home making skills, and a computer room. The teachers are paid by the government but the physical plant, supplies, and the above mentioned programs are supported entirely by already destitute community volunteers.
The final shot is of a history class. It meets outside like several others, since all indoor classrooms are full. Desks and benches are made in the woodshop or are donated. Children wear white shirts and sweaters and, even though most families have no running water, the students come to school remarkably clean. I saw no cellphones, texting, or any loud, gratuitious socializing, so common in our own high school climate. I felt the atmosphere was peaceful but disturbingly spartan. I saw few books, and no pictures on the walls, except for the flag in the background. I guess those that do without, still some how do.
Tomorrow will be my final installment on the school It is also my last day at the orphange and here in Cochabamba. I feel like I have still so much to say and such little time left. On Thursday, I return to La Paz and then Friday fly to London. Then a week later, I start my third Amizade Adventure in rural Tanzania.


  1. Thanks as always for such an insightful and thoughtful post. I'm sure that in spite of being aware of all of this beforehand, the reality of it has really hit home now that you have been there for a while and gotten to know more of the people in a more personal way, not just statistics. I will be interested to hear about Tanzania as a former boss of mine and his wife have been volunteering there for several years now. Have a good flight.


  2. I thought the first photo was red because it was open-air and you'd gotten up really early or the sun was setting.

    Once again, you've done a beautiful job of conveying something about what everyday life is like in Bolivia, and have taught us something. This is really a nice post.

  3. I have always noticed how intent children in poor countries are in education. Their parents know the importance and want their children to rise above the poverty. Most of us don't realize the need.
    Great topic. MB

  4. I'm amazed at how so many people in these poverty-stricken areas continue to struggle to improve their conditions with such meager resources.

    Your posts have been just superb, depicting visually things that most of us never see, and your commentary is always thoughtful, educative, and hopeful!

    Hope you have a great time in London with your "sweetie"!