Saturday, February 27, 2016

Another School Year Begins

The school year in Peru officially begins Monday, March 14. If the weather phenomenon El Niño is active that date will be postponed to the beginning of April. Most district schools have already completed the enrollment process so the number of students eligible to attend each school is established. Between now and March 14 teachers will be focused on providing school supplies, teaching aids and furniture for their classrooms…an especially difficult task for pronoei teachers.

For the benefit of new readers, a pronoei is a school for 3 to 5 year olds usually located in poor villages where no government kinder is available. The local district government may provide a prefab building but nothing more. Often pronoeis are located in one room of a private house. It is expected that village parents as members of a parent’s association will provide electricity, water, school supplies, teaching aids and furniture. That almost never happens. Often kids are seated on dirt floors, pails, or the ubiquitous broken plastic chairs, and parents cannot afford even basic school supplies like pencils and notebooks. As a result a large number of the kids enrolled never attend, and that habit continues through primary school.

Four pronoei teachers have phoned Promesa Peru in the past week asking for assistance with furnishing their classrooms. Chairs, tables, storage shelves and often a whiteboard have become the standard request. Every year we go through the process of looking at potential furniture suppliers; balancing quality, price and reliability. This year the process is causing us some heartburn.

A few years back we could contract with local carpenters in or near a village to build tables and chairs. The average price of a table was $40 – a chair $12. This year we’re looking at $60 and $18 respectively. Even the price of plastic chairs has gone from $5 to $8, and we’ve decided we don’t want to supply those because they collapse and break. There is another option we’ve looked at but it’s pricy.

This is the chair that the office of the Minister of Education in Lima is supplying to kinders all across Peru. The chair has a welded metal frame joined to an industrial grade plastic seat and back. It is heavy and incredibly strong. I sat on it but declined the suggestion to stand on it.

Anibal, the man in the photo is a medical doctor in Chiclayo. In addition he is part of a family business in Lima that has been manufacturing chairs and tables for the government for over 15 years. He did not have a sample of a table with him, but the photos he showed to us indicated the same level of strength and quality.

The government is paying 400 soles ($114) per table and 100 soles ($29) per chair. Anibal is a former classmate of Maribel’s and offered a 20% discount to us. Still…we’re talking about $92 per table and $23 per chair. As an example, the pronoei in Patapo has 30 students. They would need 8 tables and 30 chairs at a cost of $1426. That’s nearly 3 times our historical project cost. Anibal has offered to speak with his family about shipping direct from Lima to whatever village we’re donating to to avoid transport costs.

We keep hoping that somewhere, located centrally to the districts we serve is a carpenter who can produce the furniture we want at a price we can afford. We’ll keep looking.


  1. Joseph was a carpenterMarch 1, 2016 at 7:44 AM

    I'd worry about those chairs walking off.
    Like anything of value, better bolt 'em down.

    1. Joseph, that was one of our first considerations. We wouldn't even consider placing those chairs in a school without proper security. But given the cost it's probably a moot issue.