Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Welcome to Puerto Arturo

Puerto Arturo is a small village located within walking distance of the town of Reque, which straddles the Pan-American highway about 15 miles south of Chiclayo. Like many of Peru’s older remote desert villages, Puerto Arturo presents the over-all appearance of a deteriorating, tired town. There are many old crumbling residences and the town’s park has gone to seed. One feels that if there ever was a sense of community it was lost to the past long ago. Part of the explanation for the abandoned buildings and lack of vibrancy in the community is that many younger families have moved to larger cities where opportunities to earn a living are better, leaving behind the older folks with their memories. The young people who do remain are either subsistence farming or working during the day in one of the nearby cities.

One institution that is alive and well in Puerto Arturo is the school. I.E.N 10043 has been educating kids ages 4 through 13 for many years before sending them off to high school in Reque. Present enrollment is about 50 kids, though that number can fluctuate wildly day-to-day depending on if the kid’s help is needed in the fields or at home.

Zenaida Guevara has been teaching 1st and 2nd grade kids for 27 years at this school. She likes kids and enjoys her job. She says that after 27 years every day is still a little different. She took pride in showing us “things that cost nothing”… bottle caps, old tires and plastic bottles filled with sand that are used effectively for physical exercise and games for the kids.

Ninfa Milian is a 22 year veteran at I.E.N 10043. She teaches the 5th and 6th grades. Besides the basics she enjoys getting the kids interested in art and literature to “make them aware of their creative abilities.”

Malu Julca is an unpaid teaching assistant working with the younger kids. She is majoring in education at Pedro Ruiz Gallo University in Lambayeque. She loves working with kids and they obviously love her.

The woman in this photo (she asked that her name not be used) lives at the school in a small unused classroom.  She does the cooking for the kids, cleans the classrooms, and is responsible for security. Today she is cooking rice pudding as part of the government’s “Vaso de Leche” program (daily glass of milk) for poor school kids. Besides milk, government donated food for qualifying poor schools includes rice, flour and bread supplied by contract with local vendors.

We were at the school at the invitation of Isabel Paredes who teaches the middle grades and is presently acting director. Isabel was the assistant director of the school in Las Colmenas where we sponsored a chocolatada last December and has asked if we could do the same for the Puerto Arturo school.

We were impressed with the attitude of the teachers and kids and think this school is deserving, but if they are going to have a Christmas party this year we need help. Peru’s economy continues to grow rapidly – although outlying areas have yet to see any benefit, and with it has come rising inflation. Prices for many of the items needed for a chocolatada… chocolate milk, paneton, toys and services have risen by as much as 20% over last year, while the dollar has dropped to a low of 2.58 soles. It is becoming more difficult for us to sponsor these activities. We need contributions if we are to continue our efforts. If you would like to help sponsor a Christmas chocolatada in Puerto Arturo next month please visit the Promesa Peru website. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

An Oasis in the Desert

It’s quiz time! You are in northern Peru walking in a serene algarroba forest; some areas with large expanses of manicured grass, others raw desert. In a branch overhead a four-foot long iguana is peering down at you. The silence is occasionally interrupted by bird calls and the piercing cry of a male peacock with full plumage extended, perhaps warning off other males or simply strutting to impress his harem. A fox crosses your path, showing no concern over your presence. He may be hunting squirrels seen in the treetops. In the distance are three deer, laying in shade to escape the mid-day heat. You are not in a nature reserve. Where are you? Not sure? Here are a few more hints.

The path you’re walking, which seems to go on forever is squeaky-clean tile and concrete, with modern light pole fixtures. In addition to the animals, scattered in the forest are modern large buildings, also squeaky-clean and tastefully designed. The intent was obviously to blend buildings and forest to create a single entity. You are less than three minutes from the congested hustle and bustle of a major city. You are not in a zoo….so where are you?

The answer is you are walking in the walled-in 320 acre campus of the University of Piura in Piura Peru. Founded in 1969 this university, also located in Lima is ranked among the top 10 universities in Peru. It offers undergraduate degrees in educational sciences, economics and business, communication, law, humanities and engineering. It also boasts of a language center where English is taught, and a Confucius Institute that works in cooperation with the Capital Normal University in Beijing.” Post graduate courses are offered for some of the schools.

Attending the University of Piura – often referred to as UDEP is not inexpensive by Peruvian standards for the upwards of 4000 students enrolled. Financial aid can be applied for, but without it tuition for the school of economics and business for example is $1,160 per month, or $9280 per year for the 8 months of classes. For comparison, the annual tuition cost for the University of Wisconsin – Madison is $10,378. Room and board for out of area students, which are private homes located off campus contracted with by UDEP adds another $350 per month.

Most private universities in northern Peru cost considerably less, and the national universities 80% less than the expense of attending UDEP. Does the reputation and beautiful campus translate into a better education?  In the absence of information regarding faculty qualifications, graduation rates, campus recruiting and job placement one can only speculate, but the fact that many prominent Peruvian families have sent/are sending their children to attend would suggest that it’s a good bet.