It is hard to believe, but the second week is arriving to its end, so that means we have already reached the half of our job shadowing in Bolivia. It is still very relaxing, quite refreshing and there is no rush at all. Every morning on my way to work, I am greeting the people on the streets who are nicely responding to me. Just like in Hungary in the smaller villages.
On Sunday evening I was quite excided because the upcoming week would be dedicated to some field work. It is crucial for our investigation to talk to the teachers and principals of the schools. Three days were spent on the road and two days in the Town Hall of Samaipata researching the causes of Early School Leaving and carrying out the interviews. To be honest these days are not the most exciting ones. It is interesting to have a glimpse on the life of the Town Hall, to know a bit the people who work there, to “enjoy” sometimes the sudden blackouts, but after all this part is just office work.
However, visiting the schools and talking to the teachers and principals seemed much more interesting. And personally challenging as well. We managed to go to various places and different schools: secondary and primary, urban and rural, vocational and night schools as well. Right now, probably you have an image in your head when I say urban/rural. Just forget it, because it is a bit different comparing to the Hungarian/European concepts. Not just a bit.
The first school was both primary and secondary. 20 minutes driving far from Samaipata, Cuevas seemed to me a perfect example of a rural place. Just a couple of houses around, surrounded by the nature everywhere except the fact that they were right next to the main road. But this seemingly small detail changed the place’s status – especially when later we saw the real rural areas.
It was a rainy day, there was mud next to the road and in the yard as well, so we stayed in the teacher’s lounge. The building was not in the best conditions, it was easy to spot out the smaller or bigger cracks on the wall. But this school was not the only one with these problems. Another detail that grabbed my attention almost everywhere were the sport trophies, advertising proudly the students’ successes. And if we are talking about pride, it is inevitable to mention the picture of each class who finished the school. These two things are really similar to the European habits. Across the road we found the other facility which seemed a bit more modern, having been constructed a couple of years ago. Quite a nice building, with a basketball and football field. And everything around was incredibly green. The top of the mountains was covered by the clouds sitting low on the sky and the silent rain refreshed the air.
The next stop was Palermo. No, we didn’t come back to Italy: there’s a Palermo in Bolivia as well. After turning down the main road, it took around 15 minutes to reach the place. The dirty road wasn’t in good conditions, especially during the rain. Luckily we had a small jeep, so it was not a problem to get to our destination. At least to get to a certain point, where the road was cut by a small river that was a bit flooded during the rain. From here we had to walk but it was only 3 minutes from the car. We headed right into the woods. I could not even imagine that we will find a school there, when suddenly after a turn I set my eyes on a small building with a concrete football field surrounded by an old fence.
They were already expecting us so the little gate was open, but I think it is like this all the time since there is no reason to keep the school closed in this seemingly abandoned place. Right after crossing the yard we entered in the small building. There were only 2-3 rooms and a short corridor in front of them under the same roof. Instead of the classes the kids and the teacher were sitting here around a small table. I am not emphasizing the size that much without a reason. At that moment there were only four children at school, two sisters and two brothers. They represented 2/3 of all students. They were differently aged from 5 to 9 so I can imagine that the only teacher has to know very well each student. That must be difficult sometimes, but she seemed enthusiastic and committed to her job.
This commitment is really important if the goal is to keep the people in the small villages, in the real rural areas. People are leaving these small places. It is not a new phenomenon but in the last couple of years the trend is growing more and more. There is a lot of tempting things even in the smaller towns that push local people to leave their old fields and start a new life.
At the end of the week we visited a night school in Samaipata. This was a place working like a vocational school, a place where the young adults can come and finish their studies or learn a new profession, like tailor, electrician or tour guide. However, this school was in the worst possible conditions. I don’t mean the building, but the human resources. Often the teachers don’t get paid and many other challenges have to be taken into consideration.
My personal challenge? Well, Spanish is still not my strong suit and the Bolivian accent is not so nice to me. But I survive and everyone around me is really helpful. I really hope the best for next week in Samaipata.