The school Kusi Kawsay was founded by a group of people with a curriculum that promotes the diffusion and recuperation of Andean Culture. These families have organized a number of integral educational activities for over 15 years aimed at reinvigorating, promoting, protecting and celebrating the Andean Culture—and in this way empowering the endangered traditional way of life.

The families, consisting of five couples and their children, celebrate the Andean agrarian calendar and the values of this tradition while inspiring others to do the same. This work began as small grassroots initiatives within local communities to start local cultural centers, promote intertribal gatherings, practice Andean celebrations, organize educational workshops and outings, document traditional knowledge and make documentaries. As the initiative grew, Pachamama’s Path, a 501(c)(3) public charity registered in the States, was formed to help sustain this work. When they realized that education was the most effective way to create change, they began to work within the public school system with a Waldorf teacher and specialist, Lourdes Jibaja. The vision was to reach as many children as possible within the state program.

They soon realized how naïve they were to try to change an established system, saw how ineffective their efforts were, and began to contemplate starting an independent school for local children with no economic means. They had no idea what that entailed. With the full dedication and determination of the founding parents, together with Lourdes who made a six year commitment, they gave their priority to starting a school, and so Kusi Kawsay was born.

Kusi Kawsay Andean School

Historical Context

The Andean ancestral culture as universal human heritage needs to be rescued, practiced and preserved. This ancestral culture is being destabilized by the impacts of commercialized mass media and by the official educational system, which diffuses values contrary to indigenous culture, thus contributing to the loss of identity so fundamental to socio-cultural development.

This panorama is exacerbated by the current, rampant process of economic globalization whose standardizations and ethnocentric conceptions of development threaten the cultural diversity of the planet, their natural resources and environment.

It is easy to see that in a few years traditions, customs, celebrations, rituals, agrarian techniques, weaving techniques and normal daily life have suffered changes through the new social components, religious sect intromission, experimental government politics, new language, economical crisis, as well as the use of new materials such as synthetic products.

Andean ancestral culture

To this day the official educational system has a fundamental impact on traditional life. The tremendous exodus to towns and cities in search of a better education has a huge effect on traditional communities. They leave their community and receive an education that denigrates their heritage, and relays the message that to be successful one must be a “professional,” which implies never returning to their homeland. Knowledge through higher education is rarely put to practice in the traditional communities.

Kusi Kawsay offers an alternative education in the formation of free human beings with high self-esteem to children who would not economically have this opportunity. This school values, respects and promotes Andean traditional culture. Waldorf philosophy shares a similar approach to life as indigenous Cosmo vision and encompasses our goal to educate individuals within the ideals of a culture of peace and solidarity while practicing the heritage of our ancestors: reciprocity.indexThis ancestral approach promotes reciprocity between man and nature. Traditional communities practice a chronological annual order of celebrations and rituals, which honor and reciprocate through this calendar with the cosmic cycles (Solstices, Equinoxes, dry season, rainy season). These celebrations will assure the continuum of the culture itself, maintaining harmonious coexistence with their environment. This is endangered by tremendous and devastating colonial imposition on all levels: socially, educationally, economically, religiously and extended with mass information technology. The school calendar follows this Andean Agrarian calendar.

For centuries, formal education was denied to the indigenous people of the Peruvian Andes. Not until the 1950s was education officially legalized as a public (and thus publicly accessible) school system. However, for the majority of the indigenous population, instead of being an advantage, nationalized education became yet another tool used to de-value indigenous heritage and to subject its youth to state subservience: in short to perpetuate a colonialist system of domination.

This educational system does not respect the local cultural values. For generations, it has maintained the principle objective of forming individuals (not communities) with an extremely low self-esteem, trained to receive orders and follow instructions and in this way, perpetuating a classist society in which indigenous people are condemned to be the eternal servants and, at most, specialized servants of the dominant economy and society.

The necessity of reevaluating our ancestral culture is part of our commitment. With full understanding that the generations to come will define how this process is managed, we have given our full priority to creating a school that will offer a high level education that will form future leaders while honoring and practicing their traditional way of life that is endangered.