Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Village of Los Riojas…

…gives new meaning to the phrase ‘in the middle of nowhere.’ If you look closely at the photo you’ll see our moto driver wondering off into the distance looking to find someone who could tell him where Los Riojas was located. Actually, I believe that by this time he had given up on Los Riojas and was hoping to find someone…anyone who could tell him where he was and how to return to Tùcume. I was at about that point myself. But as usually happens things worked out and after another 15 minutes of exploring we arrived.

Unless you’re a resident or student attending one of the schools, there is no reason to go to Los Riojas. Even the moto driver, who is a life-long resident of the area said after looking around...”There’s nothing here!” That about sums it up. The only reason why a primary and pronoei school are located here is because the village is in a central location to serve other remote villages, thus most of the students don’t live in Los Riojas and walk a long way to get here. 

We were in Los Riojas at the invitation of Maria Teresa Sanchez who is the director of the primary school. The building has 3 classrooms; two are fully furnished but only one is used at present. There are 21 students (including one special education student) spanning grades 1,2,3,4, and 6. There are no 5th graders. That’s too much of an age and education difference in one classroom and Maria acknowledged that fact, but says without other teachers she has no option. My understanding is that it’s not the case of a lack of funds for another teacher as it is an inability to find teachers who are willing to work in the village. Maria has been commuting to Los Riojas from Chiclayo Monday through Friday for the past 15 years. I can’t imagine making that roundtrip every day. She told us she continues to teach at the village because she fears the school would close if she asked for a new assignment. That is the dedication we so often see in these remote villages. 

The furniture was donated three years ago by a husband and wife from Germany, and is still in like-new condition. When we commented that the uniforms some of the girls were wearing have a Chiclayo school emblem, Maria confirmed that the uniforms are second-hand and were given to her in Chiclayo.

When asked what issues she faced, she said her only real problem was concerning lunch. Parents cook the government supplied food in their homes and because many of the kids live a long distance from the school, lots of class time is lost in travel and the kids straggle back individually after eating. This is the identical problem we encountered and resolved in Tùcume Viejo last August. Maria would prefer to have a rotation of mothers cook the food at the school. She estimates that one hour of classroom time would be gained each day. A couple of cooking pots and serving spoons should take care of that issue. For the classroom she needs storage shelves. For the students she asked for donations of used clothing and added that it would be a great help to the parents if the kids had uniforms.

Adjacent to the primary school is a pronoei that was built about three years ago, but has been unused this year for the lack of a teacher. Diana Valdera, who is a sister of Amelia, the pronoei director in the village of El Pavo accepted the assignment 2 months ago. She is shy, young and inexperienced but seems to have the right attitude and with Maria as a mentor will learn on the job along with her students. There are 20 students registered for the pronoei but only about half were present when we were there. Both teachers believe the reason the other kids aren’t attending the pronoei is because the parents either don’t know the school has reopened or aren't sure Diana will be there permanently.

Except for the desk, tables and chairs donated by the previously mentioned German couple the room is empty and cheerless. Even the government issued gym equipment we see in every pronoei is absent. Diana has asked for a table, 5 chairs, 2 storage shelves and an assortment of books, tangrams, abacuses and puzzles.

We’d like to continue the example of the German couple by donating to both schools. The items for the pronoei would cost about $275 including sport uniforms. For the primary school the cost for the cooking equipment would be $65… storage shelves and uniforms another $500. So we need $900 including transportation to accomplish this project. Please visit the Promesa Peru webpage  if you can help us with this activity. Thank you.

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