FEATURED GRANTS

A NEW AWAKENING: EDUCATION THROUGH LOUDSPEAKERS IN THE PERUVIAN AMAZON DURING THE PANDEMIC

“The feeling shared by children and families was one of abandonment. That no one remembered them… [But then] the children felt included and cared for, and the community took over Education… When the loudspeakers were heard, it was like a miracle was happening, a blessing, and for others, it was a surprise.”  Pascual, Teacher

Program Area: Education
Grant Amount: $75,000 over 12 months
Awarded: 2020
Posted: January 29, 2022


For 24 years, Minga Peru has worked with rural and remote indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon in the areas of health, education, and the environment. Minga was founded and directed by Peruvian experts in communication for social change. Minga has trained over 120 NGOs and networks, mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean, in intercultural communication strategies focused on social change. It has broadcast more than 3,000 episodes of its flagship educational radio program, Bienvenida Salud (Welcome Health), which reaches 120,000 listeners. The broadcasts are based on over 45,000 letters from listeners across the region who pose their questions, and share opinions, and stories.

For its academic work, Minga collaborates with bilingual rural teachers to develop and implement supplemental curricula focused on sexual and reproductive health, prevention of pregnancy and HIV, building self-esteem, and environmental conservation, while reinforcing math and literacy and revitalizing the Amazon’s native languages. A cross-cutting component of the Minga model is investing in women and training them as community advocates who help Minga identify local needs and implement its programs.

Given COVID-19 and ensuing school closures, Minga worked with teachers, community leaders, and families to bring back learning to children in the Peruvian Amazon. In the second half of 2020, with the support of the Tinker Foundation and other donors, Minga installed loudspeakers in 25 Kukama-Kukamiria and Iquitu indigenous communities and used radio and loudspeakers as alternative ways to broadcast intercultural classes in math and comprehensive communication, customized to local culture, traditions, and lifestyles. Its efforts provide an example of how civil society has responded to the sudden closure of classrooms in almost the entire region.

Since the beginning of the project, Minga has worked with teachers from Kukama e Iquitu, the community and with local narrators to create educational scripts that do not require the continuous presence of teachers but empower students and their families to become the main protagonists in their education. In the first phase, Minga produced 56 programs with an intercultural approach authorized by the State and based on the national curriculum. The content has been presented and broadcast in Spanish and Kukama-Kukamiria and reflects the region’s social and productive calendar (for example, including information on fishing during the fishing season). As a result, close to 1,250 third to sixth grade students from the most remote 25 communities of Loreto have been able to continue their education. This has ensured equality, inclusiveness, and reduced exposure to risks due to the lack of in-person classes.

A fundamental part of the project has been measuring the children’s progress to gauge impact. In addition to listening to the classes, the children apply their learning in their homework and are regularly assessed through worksheets. They are also demonstrating their practical learning through hands-on activities. Students share their mastery of the lessons with their teachers, families, and the community in a participatory open-air space and in their own languages.

This initiative has advanced beyond learning and developing student proficiency of boys and girls. It has become a community project that represents and involves a broader range of community members; parents and the elderly currently have a more active participation in the education of their children and grandchildren. It has also brought together children and teachers with local elders, incorporating their knowledge, and recognizing them as valued, wise community members. In particular, the project has helped reawaken interest in the Kukama language and cultural practices.

“A moment of surprise has become joy, and communities have been empowered to engage with children, helping them practice what they hear through the loudspeakers and think through what they heard every day…The pandemic represented an awakening of the Kukama culture, an awakening of all that was dormant. Remembering what we knew, interest in our language as opposed to the shame that it produced, all is now in a period of recovery. It has represented connecting with nature, involving parents in teaching, and incorporating the knowledge of grandparents that play an important role and help facilitate learning…This has represented being able to fulfill the dream that my people become motivated, recover and advocate for themselves and their importance…as a teacher, it gives me joy and satisfaction.” Pascual, Teacher

This initiative was possible thanks to the collaboration between Minga and the local Ministry of Education (which has promoted and supported this effort), rural bilingual teachers, women community leaders, and the “apus” (community leaders). Minga has begun training partner organizations to help other communities adopt similar approaches. The Minga team plans to continue to communicate educational messages through the loudspeakers in the coming years, as this has demonstrated significant potential in these extraordinary times.

Written by Mónica Trigos Padilla

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