Orcopampa is a small and remote mining town high in the Peruvian Andes (3779M altitude). It takes 12 hours of treacherous driving to get there from the nearest city of Arequipa. The community is very isolated and poor and has access to very minimal education opportunities. The local economy is dependant on the local mine with considerable health implications for workers. But the community is also incredibly resourceful and resilient with a rich cultural heritage.

Miguel and Lali (Ensena Peru ’13) both grew up in the capital city Lima, but instead of imposing an imported vision they recognised the importance of co-constructing a powerful vision with the students and communities rather than for them — one that was responsive to the strengths, culture, and context of the community.

Step 1: Investing yourself in the community

What are the expectations, histories, culture, values, needs and strengths that exist within the community? How can listening to student, parent and community voice deepen your understanding of the context, help you build stronger relationships and partnership?

  • Authentic listening — Miguel approached every conversation with parents and community leaders with humility and a strong desire to learn allowing him to develop a deeper understanding of the context and build stronger relationships built on mutual respect.
  • Valuing culture — Lali invested her time in learning about and investing herself in the culture of the community, helping organise events and ensuring that her students had the opportunity to participate. While Miguel consulted with community elders to better understand the culture and history of the community and explored way’s to make the students learning culturally relevant.

Step 2: Invest parents in student outcomes

How can you engage parents around student outcomes?

  • Encourage parent participation -Miguel learnt that many parents had a tough time at school as children and didn’t feel confident about how to involve themselves in their child’s education. He encouraged parents to come into the classroom and teach lessons about the communities cultural heritage and practices. This helped show students and parents that their knowledge and experience was valued within the classroom.
  • Show learning — Lali invited parents and community leaders to come into class and watch their children learn. Seeing their children succeed academically helped raise their sense of possibility. She also created tools that made it easier for parents to keep track, support and encourage their child’s learning.

Step 3: Invest students in community impact

How can you create opportunities for students to realise their capacity to be transformational, channeling their energy and creativity into finding solutions to the challenges facing their communities?

  • Student-led enterprise — Miguel and Lali have been working with students and parents to set up school based enterprises that address specific needs in the community. Miguel’s class, for example, is using recycled materials to create wallets, which they sell at the local market.
  • Lali’s class has been building a greenhouse where they grow vegetables to help feed older members of their community. These projects have given students an opportunity to analyse their context, develop an entrepreneurial mindset and practice perseverance.
  • They created space to discuss with parents and students the ways in which education might be able to help the development and sustainability of the community. This has helped spark conversations around the communities vision for their future and the role education might play in making that vision a reality.

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