by H Mac Wooten
Written from the words of Abelia
My father is 30 years old. He works in the fields all day working for someone else or planting corn or potatoes on someone elses land for half. My father only went to school until the 4th grade. He can’t read well and doesn’t understand the words or instructions on the bottles of pesticides that he uses. The man at the store told him how to use it. He mixes it with his hands and walks through the fields in short pants, sandals, no protective clothing or a mask. He thinks it’s ok. He says sometimes his head hurts and he coughs a lot afterwards and now he shakes all the time.
My mother is 29. She didn’t go to school much and works in the fields all day too. Someone elses fields … growing flowers. Do you know how much exposure they get every day from the pesticides used on the crops here? The restrictions for pesticides used on flowers are more lax than those used on produce because it’s not edible or foodstuff. They use the same spray for the crops and the flowers. She said her arms and legs hurt and sometimes she gets dizzy. I don’t think they’ll never make it to the average life expectancy of about 70.
Some of the pesticides are made here in Peru. Some of them are made in the United States or Europe … but they can’t use those in those countries anymore. I’m not sure why? It’s strange to me that we can use them on the crops here and then sell those vegetables to those same countries. Some of the fields are beside the school. It smells bad when they spray every week.
My teacher went to school but she doesn’t have a teaching degree. She says learning is very important. She reads to us and we have to copy stuff in a book. She doesn’t like to be interrupted, so we don’t get to ask questions. We write in our workbooks some in the morning. We’re only in school part of the day. Sometimes we play outside most of the day. Our teacher has to cook for us too, and that takes away a lot of time from the classroom. Sometimes we only have one teacher for both rooms. Our school only has 2 rooms, well maybe 3 if you count where we eat. The kindergarten children are in one room and all of the other children (ages 6 – 15) are in the next room. We all learn the same stuff. It seems to be easier for the older kids.
Hola , mi nombre es Abelia. Tengo ocho años de edad. I have an older brother and a younger sister. Quechua is our first language but we learn in Spanish in school. I get up early everyday. I wash in the cold water outside and then go inside and eat breakfast, a soup made with grain. Sometimes I have to take the cow and sheep up into the hillside before I walk to school with my brother and sister. I write in my workbook every day. I don’t have much time to study when I get home, I have to go move the animals to another place and watch them until almost dark. We don’t have many toys or a TV but we do have a soccer ball. We have a small adobe house with dirt floors and not much light. I don’t think about my future much. You know….. the “what I’m going to do when I grow up” part. What did you think about when you were 8 years old? What did you learn in school? Did your parents help you study at night? Did you have good teachers? Do I have a future somewhere further than the distance that I can walk in one day or further than what I learn in my school?
My Words. Too often, the public school system for most of Peru’s poorest citizens, the most vulnerable, fails them. In general, the schools fall far short of preparing this segment for a workforce other than jobs of manual labor. The world will always need ditch diggers but not an entire country of ditch diggers. Today in Peru, even for the students who stay in school and get the education available to them, their prospects for a real job paying more than $ 12.00 – $ 14.00 a day is scarce. The equation of a developing country, a large and growing, young workforce, little industry, poor infrastructure and of course, the poor education system as well as other factors, results in poor wages.
If you have a job as a clerk in a store, you don’t have the authority to accept or exchange a returned item and in my personal experience nor does their supervisor and quite often nor does the next person up the line of command. In department stores in Mira Flores, Lima, there is an astonishing number of associates available in the store. However, few can answer a question and they have little to no knowledge regarding the products. One can only assume they are there, simply to watch the customers. By the sheer numbers of employees available, the store cannot afford to pay these poorly educated people a reasonable wage. None of these employees can actually execute the sale, that take a higher level employee. This group of workers lives far from the area and may travel for 1 or 2 hours on a crowded bus for employment paying even low wages. You see their faces through the bus windows at night as they head home. Exhausted from another 12 hour day, 6 or 7 days a week, packed into the buses like sardines, trying to sleep and jostled as the bus moves timelessly through the crowded streets with the other 14 + million people in Lima, who are in the same situation. As in most developing countries, this entire segment of society lives with their parents and it take the collective family just to survive. With the current world economy, and in many developed countries, the college graduate (with an excellent education) is back home once again with mom and dad but they still have the prospects and opportunity to improve their quality of life. Developing countries have a much higher hurdle to overcome. Education will always be the best answer.
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