Unicef: Ewan and Charley Visit Bilingual School in Bolivia
During Long Way up, Ewan and Charley planned to visit several Unicef sites along the route from Argentina to Los Angeles to see the vital work that they are doing to help children in the region.
In Bolivia, 4 in 10 children will not complete secondary school, and 151,000 teenagers currently do not attend school at all. Young people in rural areas and from indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable to missing out.
UNICEF is working closely with Bolivia’s Ministry of Education to provide academic opportunities to the country’s 37 indigenous groups that make up 43% of the Bolivian population. Their aim? To develop a curriculum to ensure that children and teenagers have access to teaching and learning materials in their mother tongues as well as in Spanish.
Their programmes promote a plurilingual, inter-intracultural education, helping the children better retain information as well as increasing their self-esteem and preserving their cultural identity. Especially important when there are several dozen indigenous languages spoken across the country.
Ewan and Charley spent some time at the Challamayu School, an indigenous Quechuan School in the agricultural community of Challamayu. Here, the children are taught in their native tongue of Quechua as well as in Spanish. But their education isn’t just limited to the Quechua language. Challamayu School also teaches the children about Quechuan traditions and culture, to preserve the students’ cultural identity and sense of pride. The guys joined as the children learnt about local plants during a quechua-speaking geography class. Afterwards, the students showed off how they knit impressive, intricate traditional pointed hats and fabrics.
Whilst getting to know the children, Ewan and Charley had the chance to watch and take part in traditional dance and ceremony which the indigenous Quechuan community has practised and passed down for centuries. The students proudly showed off their intricately hand-crafted colourful clothing which is reserved for special events at school and during holidays and festivities. In Challamayu, mothers make these outfits for their daughters and fathers make them for their sons, a skill that the children will, in turn, come to inherit and continue.
Developing access to education in such a secluded area is a unique challenge. The Quechuan School has 232 students. Whilst most live close by in the surrounding community, 44 children and young people stay in a boarding house on-site because their homes are too far away.
Ewan and Charley met Efraίn, a 12 year old student at Challamayu School. Efraίn has boarded Sunday-Friday for the past 3 years. Each Friday, he packs for the weekend and he, his brother and his cousin walk the 4 hour journey home where he helps out on the family farm, tending to the sheep and llamas and growing corn, potatoes and beans.