Thursday, September 4, 2008

la visita a la escuelita

Bill and I hiked up to Campus Leahy early Monday morning to meet four UAC-CP elementary education students: Domitila, Erik, Walter, and Nenci. We accompanied them to the nearby village (6km) of San Pablo to observe them as student teachers in the classroom.

UAC-CP student Domitila Cruz poses with one of her second graders before class.

We lucked out, the foursome told us, as we hitched a ride to San Pablo in a passing minivan. Normally UAC-CP students, who travel to rural villages to work with the gente in various capacities, walk several hours there and back. Teachers aren't the only ones who walk long distances to get to school. I met a little fourth grade girl named Silvia who said she walks an hour every morning to arrive at school.

San Pablo student raises the Bolivian flag

Mondays in San Pablo begin at 8 am with the acto civico--complete with the singing of Bolivia's himno nacional, raising of the bandera, and a few presentations reminiscent of a talent show. After, students in grades kindergarten through high school march off to their respective classrooms.

Due to the relatively small size of the school and lack of teachers in rural areas, most of the classes combine grade levels. The first classroom we visited, for example, was for 5th and 6th graders. In a cramped room with a single bulb hanging from the middle of the ceiling, UAC-CP student Walter Paco gave a lesson on the difference between the "v" and the "b"--two letters in Spanish with identical sounds that cause lots of spelling problems.

A fifth grader listens to UAC-CP teacher Walter Paco

As we made our rounds visiting each UAC-CP students' classroom, I couldn't help but compare my experiences in U.S. classrooms to that of this school in San Pablo. The kids were like all other kids I've ever met--cute, rambunctious, and curious. And while the school itself lacked many of the things people in the U.S. consider basic necessities (like textbooks, for one), it was obvious that learning happens there. Teachers in rural areas of Bolivia make due with what little they have. Andres Pardo, director of the elementary education program at UAC-CP, told me yesterday that he has seen some schools in rural Bolivia without desks, chalkboards or pencils and yet people, called by their vocation to be teachers, are able to make learning happen.

When students were dismissed at 12:30, we packed up our things and started the uphill hike to the main road. Unfortunately, we didn't have much luck catching a ride back to the College, so we were hungry, tired, and covered in dust by the time we arrived at 2pm. Yet, somehow, we timed our arrival just right: a UAC-CP student had just arrived with a bag full of oranges fresh from his family's house and offered to take our picture!

Domi, Sarah, Bill, Nenci and Walter with a bag full of oranges. (Not pictured: Erik stayed in San Pablo)

1 comment:

Catherine Q said...

Thanks for the stories of your adventures. When I was there, one day a little guy had a wheelbarrow of oranges on the road by the convent/volunteer house. I offered to buy some & gave him 1 US dollar, expecting a few oranges in return. He insisting on carting them for me to the house - once there he deposited all of the oranges in the kitchen! Each day is surely an adventure! Thanks for allowing us to share in yours.