Educational Social Enterprise Efforts in Peru

Katie Marney is a recent graduate of McGill University where she studied Political Science and Economics. She's an American citizen who has lived outside her home country for 18 years -across 4 different continents. She first travelled to Peru in 2010 to co-lead Project Conectados through the Peruvian NGO, Wasiymi Wasiki. Following that experience, she joined as permanent staff.

Although the Peruvian economy has witnessed growth of 9% in the last 5 years, 60% of its rural population lives in poverty. Education is a key to improvement, but in rural areas and urban slums in particular, tools to help are hard to come by.

Cites have advantages over the country. Urban schools, even in slum areas, tend to have at least minimal offerings for students including breakfast and uniforms. Teachers in cities more readily attend training. For some families, migrating from home villages provides educational opportunities.

Rural communities face greater challenges. They receive less funding and attention from government. Schools are far for people living in isolated villages. In villages with schools, poorly trained teachers apply outdated methods and materials in the classroom. Part of the problem is economic; Peru's growth is centered in Lima and provinces with mining. Agricultural areas with high indigenous populations are less prosperous. Municipal governments here have less to invest in schools. To fill these holes, proactive parents buy books, pay teacher salaries, build new infrastructure and even act as security guards.

Geography in rural communities isolates young people from modern opportunities. Poor roads and infrastructure exacerbates the problem - increasing time and expense. All limits students' access to resources to widen their horizons.

Overcoming gaps in education is what motivates Wasiymi Wasiki. Its mission is to engender entrepreneurism and empower youth ("teach to fish" ). The organization carries out its mission partnering with schools in underserved and isolated areas, focusing in rural Andean communities. The NGO collaborates in a local context to improve educational quality. Together, Wasiymi Wasiki and partner communities chose computers as a tool to achieve this aim.

Technology is widening inequality; 22% of schools in Lima have enough computers for their students, 65% of those have internet. In rural areas, both numbers peak at 7%.

Computer skills are applicable in all spheres of life. At school, educational programming facilitates interactive, self-led learning. The internet connects students to the largest library of information. This access is an equalizer. Wasiymi Wasiki is documenting increased initiative students display to attend school and learn with technology.

In the communities Wasiymi Wasiki enters, students know little about computers. Few have regular access. Students often commute long distances to larger towns for internet access. For WW students, the average cost for one hour of computer access is $1.50. For a poor family earning just a few dollars a day, this is a hardship.

The Conectados computer lab changes that. Students use computers a minimum of 6 hours per week. And, the lab is available outside school hours. Cost per an hour of access is as low as $0.25. Parents make small financial contributions for the upkeep of the project.

The next post will investigate a microbusiness effort to cover the costs of the computer program in a poor community to ensure their youth had sustainable, continued access to technology.

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