Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Village of Calupe

Though located only 4 miles from the city of Tumàn, the village of Calupe seems much further as the collectivo from Tumàn navigates the winding road with uninterrupted fields of sugar cane on each side. And like most desert villages, the transition from nothingness to village is abrupt…suddenly without warning you’re there.

Calupe is larger than many villages we’ve visited in the Tumàn District and actually looks more like a city than village though it occupies an area no more than 500 by 500 meters. The streets are straight and in a grid pattern. It has a large, attractive principal park; a library and even a small police department. There is a modest open-air market offering most food types, and a few tiny general stores. We didn’t see any restaurants. The streets and sidewalks in the central section of the village are wide and well maintained. And even the edges of town that butt up against the fields are clean. It’s a quiet village. Sounds were limited to rosters crowing and an occasional donkey braying. The only vehicle traffic we saw were the collectivos arriving from and departing to Tumàn about every 15 minutes. I can understand why people would live in Calupe.

Calupe has two schools…a primary school for grades one through six, and a kinder. We were in Calupe to visit the kinder. For Maribel and me entering the kinder complex was a real eye opener. It is the largest, cheeriest, best equipped, best organized and best maintained kinder we’re seen in Peru.

Martha Martinez is the kinder’s director, and after only a few minutes of discussion it became apparent that she is the force behind everything we were to see this day. She gave us some background information about the school and community, indicating that there is a strong parent’s association that takes their kids education seriously. At present there are two classes, one with 28 students for kids 3 and 4 years old, and the other with 24 students age 5.

After our discussion we spent the next 30 minutes taking a tour of the complex. I use the word 'complex' because the kinder occupies a large, completely enclosed area containing three classrooms, a kitchen, two well equipped play areas, a shrine, and an attractive elevated stage to hold events and ceremonies. This photo shows the classroom of the five year olds. We’ve been present at many kinders during lunch break, but have never seen anything like this. It looked more like a high school cafeteria in Lima than a kinder in the desert. And the demeanor of these kids was incredible. The respect they showed toward the teachers, staff and other students was impressive.

The kitchen, offices and restrooms were clean and well equipped. Martha was especially proud of the kids play area. Some months ago her kids had won 1,500 soles in a singing contest. The prize money was used to construct a roof to protect the kids from the sun.

While returning to Martha's office we commented that the school seemed to have everything it needed. In response she took us to a vacant classroom and said, “Our problem is we are turning away students. We have the classroom, furniture, school supplies and a waiting list of students. What we don’t have is another teacher.” By law the maximum student-teacher ratio is 26 - 1. With 52 students, Martha and the other teacher are at the maximum. The crux of the problem again rests with the current confusion regarding responsibility for the school between the District of Tumàn and the sugar cane cooperative. It’s basically the same problem the primary school in Conchucos is facing.

But unfortunately the school problems are an aside to a larger issue. Every day in Tumàn and lately in Chiclayo sugar cane workers and educators from the Tumàn District are gathering to stage protests against the sugar cane cooperative, claiming mismanagement, fraud and other charges. Some workers and teachers say they have not been paid in over four months.

We’d like to see this ‘responsibility’ issue get resolved soon. It is causing problems for many schools within the Tumàn District. The kinder in Calupe has the ability and desire to provide an excellent education. It’s a shame that for some students the doors are closed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Farewell to Conchucos

Our visit to Conchucos this morning will probably be our last. We’ve been to Conchucos four times since our initial visit on March 14th, and during that time we’ve furnished tables, chairs, school supplies and complete uniforms to the pronoei. 

To the primary school we donated whiteboards and school supplies, and this morning we completed the things we promised by giving them tee-shirts. Earlier we had donated school supplies for 35 students; the number that Ed has registered but unfortunately the 11 students in Ed’s class…

…and these 9 in Guadalupe’s class are the only kids regularly attending. It could be that the confusion between the sugar cane cooperative and the Tumàn District of Education as to who is responsible for the school is keeping those missing 15 students away, but there are probably other reasons as well.

Though we may not have succeeded in enticing the 15 to return…at least not yet, we do feel good about providing the opportunity for the others to continue their education. On the day we delivered school supplies one of the boys made a short speech on behalf of he and his classmates thanking us for the donations and promising to use the things we’d given them and to attend school regularly. Before leaving today I asked that boy to step forward, and reminded him of what he had said, and asked if he and his classmates would continue to keep that promise. They said they would. We believe they will.

Our thanks to Clifton B, Chris R, Amy B, Graham T, the Alice Cool Foundation and others for making the Conchucos project possible.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Pronoei at Conchucos is alive and well

We were at Conchucos this morning to deliver the uniforms we had promised to the pronoei director Fanny for her fifteen students. The kids came up with an entertaining ceremony as the clothing was being distributed. They loudly chanted the name of the next child in line to receive their clothing, and cheered when the child was dressed.

The uniforms fit perfectly with a little room for another year or two of wear with care. Two of the fifteen students were absent and will get their uniforms tomorrow. Fanny has three more students we did not have uniforms for because they were not registered when we last visited. We need to order uniforms in minimum quantities of fifteen so we can’t do anything about those three students now, but will remember them if we order uniforms for another school. The good news is that those additional three are there because the school is once again providing a solid learning environment.

Just a few months ago this school had nothing. Nearly everything in this photo...the new chairs, tables, pencils, notebooks, erasers, schoolbags and even the clothing the kids are wearing were supplied by donors to Promesa Peru. Without those donations it is very possible that the school would no longer exist. Chris R, Clifton B, Graham T, Amy B, the Alice Cool Foundation and others, please accept our thanks and the thanks of the people of the village of Conchucos.

We hope to be back in Conchucos next week with the tee-shirts for the primary school. We’re curious to see how many of those thirty-five registered students are attending classes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A proud day for the family

When I first met Katherine she was a chubby little girl who was just starting her teen years. What a world of difference between that little girl and the mature young woman who displayed confidence and poise yesterday in a pressure situation. Along with her mother, brother and grandfather, Maribel and I had the privilege of attending Katherine’s thesis presentation for her bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering.  This day would be either the culmination of over five years of study while working part-time, or a step back involving six or more months of study and a complete new thesis.

The presentation took place in a university classroom where attendance was limited to a few family members and a three-judge panel comprised of in this case her sponsoring professor, the director of the school of engineering, and a professor who had had no prior exposure to Katherine.

Katherine presented an actual case study she had researched over the past year involving a small business that was interested in improving procedures and methodologies in all aspects of their operation. She began with company background and then using slides outlined areas identified as candidates for improvement, followed by specific recommendations, cost-benefit analysis, and conclusion. During her presentation the male member of the panel, who was her sponsor sat back and listened intently while the two women judges were constantly writing notes in their copies of the thesis.

When Katherine had finished the critique began. Her sponsor started by praising her presentation but then followed with criticisms of some aspects of the study. Probably to be expected the school of engineering director was the most critical of the three judges, questioning Katherine’s support for some of the conclusions she had reached. When there were no more questions or comments we were asked to step outside while the panel deliberated for approximately twenty minutes. While outside we talked about the heat, the recent earthquake, where to go for lunch….everything but the presentation and what those judges might be deciding.

When we reentered the classroom the faces of the judges gave no indication of what they had decided. It wasn’t until the director rose, congratulated Katherine and presented her with the ceremonial stole and engineering medallion that we knew her thesis was accepted…she had earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering.

Katherine is happy with her diploma, but I think she knew she had nailed that thesis and wasn’t worried. She has already talked with her employer about plans to enter a master’s degree program. She is an intelligent, mature and confident young woman who knows exactly what she wants and has the ability and determination to get it.