Historically, indigenous people have been denied formal education. It was not until the 1950s that education was officially legalized as a public school system. However, the official education system de-values and does not respect the local cultural values, and subjects’ youth to subservices. Furthermore, the official education system has triggered an exodus to towns and cities and thus has had a big effect on traditional community lives. When children and youth do migrate, they often find 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 community. Knowledge through higher education is rarely put into practice in the traditional communities.
More than 15 years ago the 5 founding families of the Kusi Kawsay Andean School, inspired by the values and traditions of the Andean culture, began with small grassroots initiatives within communities to start local cultural centers, organize educational workshops aimed at reinvigorating, promoting, protecting and celebrating the Andean Culture. As the initiatives grew Pachamama’s Path was formed to help sustain this work. Through their initiatives, they found a way to empower the endangered traditional way of life, while inspiring others to do the same. 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. The vision was realized with an independent school for local children with no economic means. Kusi Kawsay was born in 2010. Kusi Kawsay is now an accredited primary and secondary school with an attendance of 100 children. Kusi Kawsay seeks to develop an ecologically friendly consciousness through the reintroduction and teaching of traditional ways.
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, ayni.
In 2012, the first graduating class of Kusi Kawsay faced a tough challenge. As mentioned previously, in Peru, the discrimination and lack of financial resources determines the fate of many young people. The graduating class was confronted with this risk as well and the limited options possible were focused on a survival economy. Following the Kusi Kawsay education, the graduates were motivated to revitalize and reclaim their culture by contributing to their community as agents of change. A new road or a happy path, which in their native tongue of Quechua translates into “Kusi Ñan”, was created. The Kusi Ñan project of organic agriculture became a source of employment for the alumni and provided a creative solution. Kusi Ñan is also playing an important role in the sustainability of Kusi Kawsay by selling produce at the local market, providing healthy nutritious local foods, preserving local seeds, they are able to generate support for the school. Kusi Ñan is currently producing an Andean Agriculture calendar with the purpose of generating funds from marketing this beautiful calendar that shares the work that is done at the farm, the school and incorporates the Andean Agrarian calendar celebrations thus sharing the Andean culture and tradition. These Kusi Kawsay alumni have been an incredible inspiration that truly demonstrates the flourishing seeds which was envisioned years ago and motivates us all to continue this purposeful and meaningful work.