As most of you know, The Pucusana Project is trying to build a Christian school. We are still in the early stages of this but are currently moving forward with a property purchase. Depending on funding, it may be a while before our state-of-the-art academic facility is built and operational. But that hasn’t stopped us from providing quality education to the Pucusana community.
Earlier this year, our staff went to Pucusana and took a long hard look at the damages done during the pandemic. As stated in our previous blog, Peru had the worst death rate from Covid in the entire world. Two years of quarantine and extreme mandate measures caused a massive starvation crisis and major economic issues. Now the educational gap that existed before the pandemic is even greater. Corruption in the government and fishing industry is even stronger. Mental health has plummeted, and Pucusana poverty has grown by 60%. With the Peruvian economy finally opening back up, the starvation crisis is dissipating as people are eagerly returning to work, but Pucusana is years away from returning to the place it was prepandemic (which wasn’t even that great to begin with).
Education took one of the worst hits. For two years, schools were closed. The lucky few were able to attend online, but most families living in Pucusana do not have electricity or running water much less internet or computers. Over two years of education has been lost for almost every child.
Since March 2022, schools have reopened but must follow strict Covid mandates. Children are separated into groups and attend school for the short amount of time allotted to each group. All their classes are taught during this short time resulting in poor learning. The public schools are also overflowing with students because the average family cannot afford private schooling anymore. The public school system provides a horrible education because of the lack of investment from the State, unequipped teachers, and poor educational programs. Less than 2% of students from the public schools were accepted into universities prepandemic. How much worse will they be now?
The private schools that have reopened have had to lower their prices substantially to accommodate for the unemployment over the last two years as well, making them cut programs, classes, and quality teachers from their budgets. So, in addition to the poor quality of education from the public schools, private schools are heading in the same direction, leaving no good options for education in Pucusana post pandemic.
And as far as we can tell, there are no programs in place to help kids regain the two years of education they lost during the pandemic. Most teenagers will never graduate high school and any hope of attending college is gone.
This is why The Pucusana Project launched the “Reinforcement Classes” program out of our community center (the place where we hope to build the future school). Every Saturday morning for three hours, kids from the surrounding neighborhoods can come, learn, and receive special assistance from volunteers and paid teachers in math, science and reading. This program has been operational for over a month and is going great! We have been blown away by the number of children, especially teens, who are choosing to attend. This past Saturday we had 50 children!
The Pucusana Project is committed to providing a quality education to all ages because we believe better education leads to a better future. Quality education gives the opportunity for successful careers, which in turn provides obtainable steps for successful poverty alleviation. Until we can open our Christian school, we will provide these free reinforcement classes to give the next generation some much needed hope post pandemic.
During our last visit to Pucusana, we also became aware of a country wide issue that helps enable the massive gap in education between Peru’s social classes. The average new book in Peru cost three times more than in the US!
75% of Peruvians live on a daily wage three times less than what the average middle-class American receives, so purchasing a book is NINE TIMES more expensive for a Peruvian than an American. Therefore, there is a massive illegal copying and pirating system of books and movies in Peru. With only the rich being able to afford the real thing, the lower class (75% of the population) are left with what they can afford - poor quality knockoffs. But without the knockoffs, the impoverished class wouldn’t have access to any modern learning.
Even with illegally copied books available, many families cannot waste their income on books. Imagine growing up without a single book in your home. No children’s books, novels, dictionary, nothing. With books so easily available in developed countries, this might not seem like such a big deal when in fact, it is monumental. Books don't just help you learn how to read but how to critically think and dream. Access to books is a HUGE reason for the educational gap and growing poverty line between the rich and poor in Peru because the lower classes are not learning how to recognize or how to stop the extreme corruption that exists in their country.
The Pucusana Project recognizes this problem and has enabled a simple solution. We launched a "Mobile Library" project that brings books to four different human settlements in Pucusana every month. Children from those impoverished neighborhoods can come attend story time. With books carefully chosen for teaching character traits like, courage, compassion and moral rights and wrongs; we engage questions with the children after each book is read. This helps kids learn how to critically think and it produces positive figures for them to emulate. Our volunteers then finish the time with coloring and games. A truly great way to help kids have access to books, see the fun in reading and get their creative juices flowing.
With how successful the first month has gone for our two programs, we anticipate tremendous growth from word-of-mouth and social media advertisements. We estimate that 90 children will attend the reinforcement classes each week and that 120 children will attend the Mobile Library each month.
Both programs, are free to the children who attend, but they are not free for us to host. Because we pay for quality teachers and provide classroom supplies in the reinforcement classes, they cost $720 a month, that’s $180 a week. The Mobile Library has transportation costs and project supplies making this program cost $611 a month or $152 a week.
We need your help to guarantee the success of these programs. You can be a part of these life changing projects by donating today or signing up to be a monthly donor. Please help us give these children hope and a fighting chance for their education post pandemic.
You can donate on our website at https://www.pucusanaproject.org/donate.
Or you can contact us for best ways to mail a check.
These two post pandemic programs will truly help the children of Pucusana take steps toward a better future and we hope you will choose to be a part of that.
President of The Pucusana Project