Education needs in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Regíon Amazónica EcuadorToday we travel to the interior of Ecuador to familiarize ourselves with the educational needs of the Sapara, One of seven aboriginal nationalities [1] of the Province of Pastaza, with the aim to improve the conditions of their schools.

We're joined by Luciano Ushigua, a leading educational representatives of the Sapara. For 15 years he has been working with low income indigenous children. In their plight we must add the difficulty of reaching its impenetrable villages in the Amazon rainforest, which can only be accessed with a plane of a maximum of three to five passengers. Some of these communities are at 'only' twenty-five minutes flight, but many others require of at least an hour and twenty minutes to be reached. Unfortunately, the costs to charter a plane flying over the Amazon are too high, greatly hindering the transfer of educational materials such as heavy desks or chairs.

In addition, this area has become the unforunate cover of many national and international newspapers, given the intention of the Ecuadorian government to begin oil exploitation in the Amazon.

escuelas comunidad saparaThere are a total of four of the seven communities that do not receive any kind of materials and educational support from either the public or private sectors. Sapara community is one of the least assisted of all these nationalities: most of the eighteen schools within this community don't have enough teachers and many of these professionals do not want or cannot come because of the difficulties involved in the transportation to arrive to the communities. Some of the teachers who were officially assigned to the communities of difficult access have not been able to enter these communities, and it is because the Ministry of education still has not signed the contract with the airline so that they can transport them to these communities. For this reason, it has been proposed that high school graduates, who are of their same nationality and that know in deep their communities, to be hired to be in charge of educational work .

The schools in this community are very basic. The largest schools hosts a total of one hundred children, while others can only accommodate 10 students. They lack desks and chairs that are too heavy and bulky to be able to be transported by plane. It is encouraged, therefore, that both chairs and desks are built directly into the communities. On the other hand, schools lack educational materials; essentially books to study, plus in most communities there is no power and therefore no way to make inquiries by electronic means such as the Internet.

Given this harsh landscape, we find that the dropout rate is about 40% and the illiteracy rate is 30%, and even higher among adults.

We ask Luciano if there is any nonprofit organization or public establishment that cares or help these communities.

His answer is blunt: "To tell the truth there is no one, nor the Ministry of Education seems to be able to help us."

And where is then the Government through the Ministry of Education?

We've almost never seen any kind of concern for the authorities to improve the quality of life for residents of our communities and, therefore, their educational conditions. In addition, professionals in education from big cities will not come to work in communities for many reasons: diseases, malaria, high cost of flights and bites of snakes, scorpions and other poisonous insects, for this reason we need that the graduates of these communities start working as teachers.”.

What would be the approximate cost of chartering one of these planes with material and what capacity do they have?

La avioneta llega a la aldeaTo the farthest community the cost is 700USD, whereas for the nearest community the cost would be 350USD.

That children in these communities receive basic education depends largely on our support: showing the current state of the schools and raising awareness among the public entities so that they can start using all their tools to support these communites, but it also depends on our help because with our assistance we can change the lives of many of these children. At the end of the day, a charter plane to take material costs less than a return ticket from Ecuador to Europe.

We need your support!

[1] The other six indigenous communities of the Pastaza region are the Shuar, Achuar, Quechua, Andoa, Shiwiar and Waorani.