The Costs Rural Schools in Peru

No budget to maintain the decaying schools

Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.    Kofi Annan
by H Mac Wooten

The cost shouldn’t be measured in $ Dollars or S/ Soles, as everywhere, it should be measured in Quality of Life.

Peru’s education system consists of kindergartens and basic education.  The free basic education consists of both primary and secondary schools.  They also have a myriad of higher education consisting of  pre-universities and universities which the students have to pay to attend.  In the private network (which represents < 15% of the schools ) one finds the best schools in the country, some of which administer an education linked to other countries (United States, Great Britain, Italy, Germany, China, etc.) and others run by religious congregations.  There has been somewhat of a convergence between the non-enlightened and powerful sectors of Peruvian society and an upset popular mentality around social advancement and the difficulty in instilling in the young the values of discipline and order. The answer in both cases is authoritarianism.  The signs of this are the preference of military style parades in schools, ‘Brigadiers’ (persons in charge of discipline in the classroom) in the school organization or the occasional request for returning to schools of “Military Pre-Instruction” under the leadership of the Military.

Peru’s education system is steadily challenged from every direction i.e.  increasing  student population, pressure to attend school balanced against the need to work to support the family and the understanding that education leads to a better quality of life.  Although the education for the students is compulsory and free, it’s hard for many students to stay in school because of family matters.  Children a usually required to by their workbooks ( S/ 7.00 – S/18.00) which is a huge expense for many of the families when the average wage (for the father) is S/30.00 per day  ($ 12.00)  … if they can find work.  Current law in Peru mandates that children from the age of 6 to 15  attend school, however, there is no enforcement at any level.  Education in public schools in Peru is low quality largely because of inadequate facilities, and poorly trained teachers and low funding by the government.  (Peru ranks second in South America for the amount of money the government spends on education).  The public schools also have shortages of textbooks, paper and pencils, sports equipments, and even desks and tables for students to sit in and learn.

A Fresh Coat of Paint Does Not an Education Make!

It has been, and still is an important symbol to have a school located in small rural communities (which the entire community fights to obtain), however they don’t understand the poor quality of educating taking place.  It develops because of the pressure of social demand rather than because of the initiative of the State.  Merely having a school in the community falls far short of the needs of a quality education.  Often the results in terms of knowledge and technical skills do not seem to matter much: what matters is the ‘bestowment of values’: discipline and order, religious values, homeland and family.  To that, the notion of progress’ is added, even though it is only superficially linked to modernity: more a synonym of ‘betterment’ (‘self improvement’) as well as national integration.  In general, the teachers are underpaid and the schools have no support staff.   However, for the small percentage of those who can afford to attend private schools, they can receive a much better education than those who attend public schools.  Although, the education in public schools is normally poor quality, a high percentage of children in rural areas  do not get to complete their schooling because they have to start working.  Children who live in the countryside are often needed to help with the farming and to take care of the animals.   For the most part, classes are taught in Spanish which sometimes makes it difficult for students who first language are either Quechua or Aymara, but conversely better prepares them for the competition of the few jobs in the workforce outside of agriculture.  The downside is that this contributes to the breakdown of their culture.   In the poorer and rural areas, about 25% of Peru’s children do not complete primary or elementary school and only about 50% of children go on to secondary school.  Many students that are in their final year of primary school don’t graduate because their families have to pull them out to work.  Even in towns which have more schools than in the rural areas, young children often have to start earning money rather than go to school.  More in rural areas,  fewer girls enroll or regularly attend  secondary schools because of gender bias.   Students are expected to finish their basic education by the age of sixteen.   In 1990, only 58.6 percent of school-age children attended school.  Presently, the percentage of students attending school has increased greatly.  Even though, the percentage of students entering school are increasing, the underpaid and/or low wages the teachers are getting from the government have yield unskilled teachers.  The other side of this argument is that the government has offered these teachers better pay if they get certification  and/or teaching degrees.  Few seem to have taken the government up on their promise …. for a variety of reasons.

Personal notes;   In my first two pictures of the family, Dephelia wouldn’t allow her husband to be included in the picture …. notice how far away he’s situated!   After some coaxing she finally told  him to come sit.

How should we measure the costs of education?  I believe we need to use different yard sticks for different societies but a very important aspect is how it affects the society in which we live. The measurements fordeveloped countries are much different from the measurements of developing countries.  There isn’t a “one size fits all.”   There are innumerable variables for societies and countries, but the one common variable and focus is EDUCATION  IS the KEY to the FUTURE.

“The future depends on what you do today.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Teach a Teacher and our Volunteers provide Professional Development and help teach basic teaching skills to Teachers in some of the poorest areas.   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.


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