Intercultural Education for the future leaders of the Amazon
The Intercultural Education Program of the Chaikuni Institute, Sui Sui, works closely and primarily with the Organization of Indigenous Students from the Peruvian Amazon (OEPIAP), with the main objective to contribute to improved access to higher education and sound basic living conditions for the indigenous students in the city of Iquitos.
We believe indigenous higher education students are the couriers of a mutually advantageous cultural exchange.
The presence of indigenous students, with the traditional knowledge they bring, enriches the perspectives of their peers, professors and co-workers within the urbanized and disconnected university setting. Academic opportunities allow for indigenous students to return home with knowledge and skills from which their communities can learn and integrate, or pursue a professional career in the city.
We believe in intercultural education as a means of creating an inclusive, diverse and equitable society that honors and celebrates its constituent cultures and identities.
We are building towards an inclusive, equitable society that honors and integrates indigenous rights and perspectives.
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 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. For indigenous youth access to higher education is even more shockingly low: Only 3,25% of the indigenous population in Peru’s Loreto region complete higher education.
For those who do get into higher education institutions they meet an academic world which lacks intercultural awareness and sensitivity.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- High costs and other difficulties associated with travelling to and living in the city for education make such an endeavour impossible for many.
- The jarring cultural transition and social isolation are unappeased by a national scholarship program that fails to properly integrate indigenous students.
- Few higher education institutions pursue a policy aimed at improving access for indigenous youth or providing helpful and necessary resources.
- With the exception of the Programa de Formación de Maestros Bilingües Interculturales (FORMABIAP) of AIDESEP, there is an inadequate infrastructure for bilingual or intercultural higher education to accommodate the language barriers experienced by many indigenous students.
The indigenous students who do make it to the city for university are often met with hostility and discrimination due to widespread racism and ignorance regarding indigenous history and colonialism.
Our Intercultural Education program (Sui Sui) is based on five main lines of work: improvement of living and study conditions of indigenous students in Iquitos, strengthening OEPIAP's organizational and advocacy capacities, academic tutoring and personal development, advocacy and network building with government bodies, civil society and educational institutions with regards to intercultural education and indigenous peoples and, finally, raising awareness (through communications) on the challenges for indigenous students.