The Chaikuni Institute believes in change from the bottom up.
Increasing access to intercultural education and especially for indigenous youth in the Loreto region of the Peruvian Amazon is one way in which we address the socio-economic exclusion and invisibility of their communities as a whole. We are building towards an inclusive, equitable society that honors and integrates indigenous rights and perspectives.
The stakes are extraordinarily high. Socio-political and economic marginalization against indigenous people presently manifests across a wide range of abuses and indignities. Forms of outright discrimination facing our communities include insufficient legal and political representation, abuse and deceit by third parties, unsustainable extraction of natural resources without a management function for the local peoples, and the degradation and poisoning of our territories.
We believe the key to change is equipping indigenous youth with the cross-cultural tools, language and skills to engage with mainstream society on equal terms. Our primary focus is removing the barriers to access higher education for indigenous youth in the Loreto region.
As of January 2015, only 43% of Loreto’s youth finish high school and only 11% of those students are able to begin higher education.
Educational access for indigenous youth in particular within Loreto is even more staggeringly low. Even though education ought to be the responsibility of the State, and despite some efforts made in recent years, indigenous youngsters who want to pursue higher education in Peru still suffer vastly unequal opportunities for a number of reasons:
1. Indigenous youth who leave their homes to study in the city are poorly prepared by their local basic and secondary schools. Lack of resources and the difficulties associated with making such a dramatic cultural transition make it hard to catch up academically.
2. A lack of political will and a poor political vision for intercultural education largely means that if indigenous youth are to pursue higher education, they must do so on their own, against all odds.
3. High costs and other difficulties associated with travelling to and living in the city for education make such an endeavor impossible for many. The jarring cultural transition and social isolation are unappeased by a national scholarship program that fails to properly integrate indigenous students.
4. Few higher education institutions pursue a policy aimed at improving access for indigenous youth or providing helpful and necessary resources.
5. With the exception of the Programa de Formación de Maestros Bilingües Interculturales (FORMABIAP) of AIDESEP, there is inadequate infrastructure for bilingual or intercultural higher education to accommodate the language barriers experienced by many indigenous students.
6. The indigenous students who do make it to the city for university are often met with hostility and disrespect due to widespread racism, and ignorance regarding indigenous history and colonialism.