STOP The Poverty Cycle … I Want To Get Off

                                                                                                                                                                                                 by H Mac Wooten

“There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance” Ali Bin Abi Thalib

How do we stop the poverty cycle?   Education!  THE CURE FOR POVERTY IS EDUCATION.   There, that wasn’t so hard was it?  A simple answer that probably everyone agrees with.  I guess that brings to the next logical question.  How do we educate?  If you’ll bear with me for a minute, I’d like to point out the obvious.  So far, I’ve had to answer all the tough questions! We educate by getting the kids to school, keeping them in school, making learning fun and interesting and showing them the benefits of education and how that directly affects their future.

What comes to mind when you hear or see the word POVERTY?  For me, I hear a cry in the night that no one can comfort.  I see a child’s face with their eyes filled with tears, hopelessness and fear.  Here in Peru, a developing country, getting these faces to school and keeping them in school is a much bigger problem than that same issue in the U.S.  Here in Peru, there’s no stigma or shame attached to dropping out of school and conversely, there’s no honor or pride attached to staying in school and getting an education.   The truant officer isn’t going to show up at your door and your parents  aren’t going to ground you for a week and make you wash the car and clean your room!  On the contrary, you’ll spend your day high in the hillside watching the sheep.  It really doesn’t that well nor does it prepare you for much of a future.  Neither these children nor their parents  seem to understand the benefits of an education.  My grandpa didn’t have one, my mommeran daddy didn’t have one … an’ I don’t need no schoolin’ neither.   Ok … I added that cause I’m from the south and it sounded good to me!  Was it the mommeran daddy part that gave it away?  Sorry!

This 14 year old girl lives within 10 minutes walking distance of the school yet, she’s not in school

Translating that last sentence to Spanish would take me too long and you understood that mindset anyway.  Everything regarding the teaching  methods and curriculum here, varies from teacher to teacher.  There are few standards.  Children normally wont ask questions or interrupt the teacher.  Part of that issue is cultural.  If they don’t understand something in class, they don’t ask their teacher ….. and conversely, the teacher doesn’t ask “OK, now did everyone understand that” ?  Several children that I’ve spoken with say the reason they dropped out of school was they got behind and it was too hard and some of their friends quit going to school.  However, they don’t appear to be hanging out with their friends during the day, instead, they’re watching the sheep, cows and burros.  Many teachers are poorly trained and have no real teaching certification.   It appears that almost anyone can teach in a classroom here.  It is federal law that children between 6 and 17 must attend school.  However, neither the government nor parents seem the least bit concerned and there is no enforcement.  This morning while I walked to one of the schools, I talked with 4 children within a 1/2 kilometer of the school who should have been in school.  Quickly getting off the subject for a moment, maybe in my next blog we’ll discuss why th’ hell the U.S. doesn’t convert to the metric system?????   It’s soooo much easier!   Ok, back on track again ….  I’m sure other children were inside some of the houses and others were in the hills tending the sheep and cows.  This problem exists because of the culture, illiteracy rate,  poor education,  poorly run education system, poverty and the inability to see a better future, education takes a back seat to everything for a huge segment of the population.

Education will give you the opportunity to make a difference in your life and in the lives around you

This 13 year old and his younger brother were leading the cows into the hills to graze instead of going to school

Junior,  git up NOW, you’re going to miss the school bus!    Mommer, what’s a school bus?  For better or worse, there’s nothing here to compete with school.  There’s no shopping mall where they can hang out with their friends, no video games or television to watch at home and many of their friends are doing the same ……… working in the fields or watching the livestock while they graze.  Most of these families have no transportation, so, everything they do, everywhere they go, is within walking distance.  Many of these people have never been more than 50 miles from where they were born.  They have little knowledge of the world outside of that radius.  The concept of the future is something they don’t think of often.  Everything is NOW.  For the most part, maybe more of us should be concerned and focused more on NOW than the future.  I spent most of my life doing everything for the future and missed out on much of the NOW.  I’m making up for it NOW.

This 15 year old girl stays home and helps cook and works in the fields … and chases parrots!

If I had that part to do over again, yes, I would do many thing differently but I’m enjoying my future largely because I realized the importance of education.   Writing this blog beats the hell out of back-breaking work in the fields all day.  Possibly if I’d had a better education, I’d have someone writing this blog for me!  If I did,  it probably wouldn’t be one of the children in these pictures writing the blog!  Their future has already been determined solely by being born in a developing country unless they are shown and understand the importance and benefits of an education.

 The uneducated population here doesn’t even have the option of wearing a hair net and working at McDonalds!   When the bottom drops out of the economy, the people at the bottom of the food chain suffer the highest proportion of the hardships as well as the everyday common labor uneducated people in developing countries.  Ask a college graduate who’s flipping hamburgers today.  A college degree will generally  get you a job before someone with only a high school education  even at Micky D’s.  A large portion of Peru’s economy is based on agriculture as was that in the United States in the 1700’s.   I so yearn for those good ole’ days!   Oh, wait, never mind …. forgot about the no air conditioning being invented yet part!  Farming labor is one of the few options available for the majority of people at or below the poverty level.  There are large corporations growing crops here but still most of the work is done by hand.  Manuel labor is cheap and plentiful.  Seven to ten dollars a day is average pay and often the clock doesn’t stop at 5:00P.    Seeing farmers cutting grain with a scythe is not uncommon.  Most fields are plowed with two bulls pulling a wooden plow.  With the exception of seeing farmers wearing poly soccer shirts with some famous players name on the back and plastic bags of fertilizer littering the landscape, you might think you’ve been transported back to the 1700’s.

Fifty years from now if education in Peru hasn’t improved significantly, this will still be a common sight and manual labor jobs will still be paying $7.00 to $ 10.00 a day …. for backbreaking menial labor with no dental plan, health insurance or 401K.

Teach a Teacher and our Volunteers provide Professional Development and help teach basic teaching skills to    Teachers here in Peru.   Please visit us at and and at teachateacher on Facebook.

Mac Wooten is President of Teach a Teacher nonprofit.  A native of Greenville S.C. We live and focus most of our  work in the Ancash region of Peru.
*These pictures were taken near Laguna Peron In the Ancash Region of Peru 4-26-2012

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