Peru's Education Reform
Part III: "Dialogue of the Deaf"

By Norman Gall

March 1975

The pressures of population growth on the resources of a developing society are felt through three main variables: quantitative increase in the number of people; rises in the levels of consumption and economic participation per inhabitant; and variations in per capita productivity through changes in the manpower’s age structure and in its economic yields.

The development of Peruvian education in recent decades provides a striking example of the interplay of these factors. While only one in every forty Peruvians had access to public education in 1900, the proportion of those participating in the education system rose to one-in-four by the mid-1960s. While Peru’s population has increased since 1900 at the geometric rate of 1.9 per cent annually, enrollments have risen at 5.4 per cent per year during the same period, or nearly three times as fast as population, reflecting one of the world’s highest rates of educational expansion in this century. At the same time, education’s share of Peru’s public budget rose from 29 per cent in 1900 to 30 per cent in 1966, one of the highest in Latin America, and this severely strained the financial resources of the state as continued high birthrates and dramatic declines in infant mortality radically expanded the school-age population. The rapid educational expansion, while showing spectacular growth rates in the remote and backward Departments of the Andes, also has been closely associated with urbanization and migration to the coastal cities. In Metropolitan Lima, roughly 47 per cent of the population between the ages of five and 39 was engaged in some kind of formal education in the 1970-1972 period.

These Reports attempt to illustrate the stake in education of the Peruvian people as their "Revolutionary Government" of generals and colonels attempts to carry out a major Education Reform. On one hand, the expansion of schooling is one of the principal means of increased consumption and opportunity for the common man in Peru; it provides the single clear and coherent expression of social democracy in Peru ‘s recent history, growing both in impact and momentum in the course of this century. On the other hand, the waste and chaos of educational expansion has severely limited Peru‘s economic productivity, imposing heavy financial burdens on the state and society and aggravating the immediate consequences of its high (3.1%) population growth rate. Educational expansion can pay for itself by increasing the productivity of the labor force, and, as elsewhere, by reducing family size. A major goal of Peru’s Education Reform is to build an educational system that will spur rather than retard economic development.

They [the elementary schools] are mainly in the hands of ignorant, unskilled teachers. The children are fed upon the mere husks of knowledge. They leave school for the broad theater of life without discipline; without mental power or moral stamina.... Poor schools and poor teachers are in a majority throughout the country...Multitudes of the schools are so poor that it would be well for the country if they were closed.... They afford a sad spectacle of ignorance engaged in the stupendous fraud of self-perpetuation at the public expense.

William Franklin Phelps, President of the National Education Association, 1870*

Just as Peru’s Education Reform was beginning to gain momentum, a series of strikes and uprisings in the cities of southern Peru in late 1973 established the national teachers’ union, SUTEP (Sindicato Unico de Trabajadores en la Educación del Perú), as the main organized opposition to the five-year-old "Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces." The dismissal and arrest of SUTEP leaders in Puno and Arequipa triggered an escalating series of incidents that ended in an eight-day general strike in Arequipa. Peru’s second-largest city. A supporting work stoppage by railroad and other transport workers paralyzed the movement of all goods, including critical supplies of food and fuel, from the coast to the inland towns and cities of the sierra. Then student uprisings throughout the region culminated in the burning down of the SINAMOS headquarters in a colonial palace in downtown Cuzco and the destruction of debt records of the agrarian reform. All this ended only after martial law was declared throughout the southern sierra and more than 100 SUTEP leaders were arrested in various parts of the country. But the strength of the teachers’ movement had sufficiently stunned the government for President Juan Velasco Alvarado to warn in a press conference a few days later: "If they want war, they will have it. Here we stand: Either SUTEP will fall or the Revolution will fall."

The teachers’ movement had grown in strength and militancy after a 1971 national strike that failed when the pro-Moscow Peruvian Communist Party (PCP), which has become an avid supporter of the military regime, split from the movement and left seven strike leaders—including the Trotskyite peasant leader Hugo Blanco—to be deported by the government. Afterward, the different teachers’ guilds—primary, secondary, vocational, etc.—were united into a single national union, SUTEP, formed at a congress in Cuzco in June 1972 that was largely controlled by Maoist elements. During a visit to Puno a few months after the 1973 uprisings, a young priest close to the movement explained to me that "the ambiguity of the teachers’ movement allows different kinds of groups to participate. In the north of Peru many of the key positions in SUTEP are held by APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance) leaders and in the south by Maoist groups such as Patria Roja and Bandera Roja and the Trotskyite Vanguardia Revolucionaria. Education is a political battlefield, and the education reform is used as a means of bringing awareness to the people. When four SUTEP leaders were arrested in Puno, taxi and truck drivers, secondary and university students, merchants and market women turned out in an attempt to win their freedom. SUTEP is forming political study groups and tries to show that the government suppresses the class struggle through the arrest of SUTEP leaders. The Moscow-oriented Communist leadership originally had condemned the strikes in southern Peru as part of a plot by "Yankee imperialism and the oligarchy" to "create artificial strikes impairing production and the national economy." Then the Secretary-General of the PCP-controlled Confederación General de Trabajadores del Perú (CGTP), Gustavo Espinoza, did a complete about-face when he saw the strength of the Arequipa movement after going there to talk the unions into going back to work. Apparently fearing the political consequences of being left on the sidelines of a protest movement having overwhelming popular support, Espinoza joined the strikers, declaring that "healthy, decent forces have been mobilized in the Arequipa events that have nothing to do with the imperialist and reactionary interests. Neither the bank employees nor the teachers nor the transport workers can be accused of being counterrevolutionary..."

Earlier this year I was able to smuggle a tape recorder into the Lurigancho Prison on the desert hills outside Lima to interview some of the Maoist SUTEP leaders arrested in late 1973. They were mostly young teachers in their late twenties and early thirties who were products of the rapid expansion of teacher-training programs in Peruvian universities and normal schools in the 1960s. Their language reflected both the political radicalization of this period and the poor professional training received under the pressures of proliferating enrollments. Nevertheless, their role as leaders of the opposition to the military regime leads one to suspect that a new political generation is coming of age in Peru in some ways similar to the mestizo elements that emerged during APRA’s revolutionary phase in the 1930s.


"The protest movement in Puno goes back some time," said Platón Palomino, a husky 29-year-old from Puno who was among the ten jailed, school teachers gathered around me in a corner of the prison yard at Lurigancho. "One of the most important events was the visit of President Velasco’s wife to Puno on June 27, 1972. She had to be evacuated in an armored car during some tense moments in the midst of protests by students and workers for the freedom of certain jailed leaders. Officially, three people died in the melee that followed, but we know that others disappeared. The people who protested compared their own poverty with the great waste of money on the tour of the President’s wife. Then, on October 25, 1973, four SUTEP leaders were arrested in Puno. On the following day the secondary students were mobilized for the first time in Puno’s history to seek their teachers’ freedom. The police attacked the secondary and university students, both male and female, in the streets and arrested people left and right. Then the students decided to stage sit-ins in all the school buildings. The police attacked them with rubber bullets (balines) and tossed teargas bombs into the schools and shut off the water and electricity. But the students stayed inside for 11 days, while the police arrested other leaders of the students and teachers.

"I am Provincial Secretary-General of Puno. One of the reasons they gave for our arrest is the discovery of arms and munitions in the Casa del Maestro in Puno. Until the night before the police raid on our headquarters I had seen neither arms nor explosives there. When the police entered the place to search on November 15 they entered with a truck. They blasted away the door of the Casa del Maestro. There were no arms nor munitions, just all our furniture destroyed. Someone wrote on a wall:

‘People of Puno: This is the work of the Revolutionary Government. Enter and see.’ For three hours the people went inside to see what the police had done until the police detachment returned and sealed the place off with armed guards. Two or three days later the newspapers of Lima published under big headlines the news that the police had found arms and explosives in the Casa del Maestro. This is why they say they are holding us as prisoners."

In late 1974 President Velasco held a series of monthly meetings with SUTEP leaders aimed at reaching a modus vivendi between the teachers and the government. But these meetings were abruptly broken off when a group of Maoist SUTEP leaders began attacking those teachers’ representatives who favored making a deal with Velasco that would bring major economic benefits to the profession. The leader of this Maoist faction was Arturo Sanchez Vicente, the 34-year-old Subsecretary-General of SUTEP, who was among the union officers whom I interviewed a few months before in the Lurigancho prison. He said at the time: "I personally consider the latest measures taken by the Junta Militar as reflecting its repressive, anti-popular and imperialist character, at the service of the industrial-financial bourgeoisie of the landlords [sic] that merely preserves the unjust social system in which we are living. I consider that the struggle today of the teachers and the entire Peruvian people is not merely economic, but fundamentally political. The repressive offensive of the Junta Militar will be met by a political counteroffensive of the people. We believe that the persecutions, the jailings, the beatings, the deportations, the murders, and the police terror sown in the midst of all popular organizations are political measures of the Junta Militar aimed at destroying these organizations. Speaking concretely, the teachers’ problems include a pauper’s salary of 4,000 soles ($90); we are asking for a standard salary of S/10,200 per month that would rise automatically with the cost of living. The teachers’ economic struggle is not selfish and isolated, but rather part of a general struggle of the people for increases in wages and salaries. The teachers are playing a vanguard role in the struggle for the people’s liberation, the destruction of the unjust society in which we live, of this class society of exploiters and exploited, of oppressors and oppressed. We are moving toward destruction of bourgeois society. Our immediate economic struggle does not lie merely in salary claims, but also in obtaining official recognition [personeria jurídica] for SUTEP so the authorities will have to open their doors to us and deal with our claims. We are fighting for the right of all Peruvians to organize in unions of their choice. Here in jail we have consolidated our organization."

A university professor from Puno, also among the prisoners, said: "The first time I was arrested was during the student sit-ins in Puno, on November 6, when I was in jail for four days. I was a member of a committee trying to negotiate a solution to the problem of the jailed teachers and the student demonstrators, and was finally freed on November 10 under student and popular pressure. But I was arrested again a week later, on November 17, while riding in my car near the Plaza de Armas. They made me get out of my car and the beatings began almost as soon as I was brought to the police station. Just as I was entering some other prisoners were leaving, including the president of the Bar Association of Puno. Another professor and two university students had also been beaten and were being sent to Lima. My first beating was with fists and kicks. The second beating was with a leather club, after which they took all my belongings and left me in a cell. At midnight, they took me out for another beating. They handcuffed me behind my back and stuffed a towel in my mouth to keep me from shouting. Then began what may be called a systematic beating. The blows started at shoulder-level and gradually worked their way down to my abdomen, and then they worked me over in the same way down my back. They said they would beat me in such a way as to make me vomit blood. Then they told me they would beat me to death and throw me in Lake Titicaca. Back in my cell, I waited for another beating for two or three hours but they never returned. I was incommunicado for about 12 days. I couldn’t speak with anyone. I was in a cell of about a cubic meter of space where the only thing that reached me was the food sent in by family after close scrutiny by the guards. After that the police interrogated me basically to find out where I got my money. They tried to prove that some international organization subsidized me. They found some border passes I had to cross over to the Bolivian side of the lake. Then they said I was in touch with some Bolivians to receive money. I told them these border passes were for a pilgrimage to Copacabana, a holy place on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. The police were trying very hard to prove that some international political organization was involved in the Puno protest movement. From the police station in Puno they took me to a detention pen in Lima called the Botao, and then here to the Lurigancho.

"The people of Puno responded in a very organized way to the call of SUTEP for support. There is an alliance of people’s organizations called the Frente 27 de Junio, named in honor of the people’s resistance at the time of the visit of President Velasco’s wife. To this front belong different labor unions, people’s organizations, and student associations that together called a general strike in support of the school buildings sit-ins that the secondary students had carried out in Puno. This general strike spread from the city of Puno to the entire department. The secondary students of the other provinces of the Department of Puno responded to SUTEP’s call. In the first place, they were asking for their teachers’ freedom, but at bottom they were protesting the wretched living conditions on this altiplano. They are supposed to have carried out an agrarian reform in Puno. Instead of having a debt to the landlord, as in the past, the peasants now have a debt to the state to pay for the same plot of land they’ve always lived on. The peasants have seen that the fundamental problem is the bureaucracy. Now it is the agricultural engineers, the managers of cooperatives, the foremen, who must be supported with high salaries. Nevertheless, the government propagandizes the agrarian reform throughout the region by showing that the lives of peasants on a few great expropriated haciendas really have improved somewhat. For example, if before the reform the peasant didn’t have access to the owner’s house, now the campesinos proudly say, ‘Now I can go there when I want. Now it is mine.’ But this doesn’t solve the basic problem, the problem of the land. The government is trying to perpetrate a great deception. On one hand, their laws are very beautiful, but on the other hand they can dismiss and imprison teachers whenever they wish. The teacher lives close to the peasant under very hard conditions. And this is part of a long educational process."


While Peru’s Education Reform is still in its early stages, it is facing a number of major obstacles, of which the tensions between the teachers and the military government is merely one. Another is the continuing contradiction between the soaring libertarian rhetoric of the "Revolutionary Government’s" reform and the reality of the repressive and dictatorial methods it uses not only to seize and preserve power but also to impose its objectives from above. Beyond this, the mandarin bureaucracy of the Ministry of Education is a formidable obstacle to any major initiative because of, in the words of the Education Reform Commission’s 1970 report, "the excessive number of functionaries and employees" and the "bureaucratization and routine [that] tend to rigidly demand the mechanical fulfillment of abstract norms that are unrelated to reality...

Beyond this, the political isolation of the education reform and the military regime itself stems from the peculiar manner in which the Peruvian generals and colonels have operated in power. While the military dictatorships in Brazil and Chile have freely called upon civilians to serve in many cabinet and subcabinet posts, the Peruvian military have kept almost all high public offices for generals and admirals. Thus the leadership of the Education Reform has been in the hands of bulldog army generals who have been named as Education Ministers for political and hierarchical reasons and have proven on the job to be neither the best nor the brightest of the officer corps; and a succession of army colonels who occupy the vice-ministerial posts in the ministry for one year before rotating on to higher military studies. The military have been helped by "technocratic" educational planners and philosophers grafted upon the ministerial hierarchy to design and guide the reform program toward realization. However, the technocrats have helped to sow division within the permanent ministry bureaucracy. During the first six years of the military regime there has been a rapid turnover of civilian and military personnel, except for those with long tenure in the ministry, a turnover that at times has been accelerated by fate and political exigencies. For example, the philosopher Augusto Salazar Bondy, the chief architect of the reform, died suddenly of hepatitis in December 1973. In July 1974, following the expropriation of all the Lima daily newspapers, another key planner of the Education Reform, Walter Peñalosa, was named editor of the newspaper La Prensa. In a country so short of high-level professional manpower, this kind of turnover and loss can scarcely be tolerated in a major policy initiative which must overcome many problems and obstacles.

In Peru’s 150 years of republican life there have been several "reforms" aimed at reorganizing and reorienting the educational system. In a little book called Via Crucis de las Reformas de Ia Educación Peruana, Professor I. Wilbert Salas Rodriguez of the University of Cuzco lists 12 "stations" of Education Reform between the 1823 Constitution and the 1972 General Education Law. Major education statutes and decrees were legislated in 1850, 1855, 1873, 1876, 1901, 1902, 1905, 1920, 1930, 1941, 1957, and 1964. They reflected a progressive centralization of responsibility for education that gradually shifted administrative control from the Church to the municipalities to the national government. Much of the public debate during these "stations" of reform expressed anguished concern for the state of the educational system. At the same time, to solve recurrent financial crises, legislators many times organized a Mad Tea Party at which special taxes were levied to pay for the school system. For example, in 1848 a girls’ secondary school, the Colegio Rosa, was founded in Puno with financial support from a new tax on the importation of mules, horses, and donkeys from Argentina. An 1875 law provided support for primary schools, then in the hands of the municipalities, from one-tenth of the product of lands irrigated by the national or municipal governments and from a personal income tax that was never enacted, causing such financial disaster that many public schools closed between 1874 and 1879. Meanwhile, successive educational laws became more prolix and embracing, growing from 66 articles in 1850 to 414 in 1901. Writing on previous Education Reform efforts in this century, Jorge Basadre observed:

The 1920 law, like the ones before and the 1941 law that replaced it, had one basic defect: it implied a reordering from above to those below, with dogmatic and theoretical pronouncements of a general nature without relating its content to daily reality. It belonged to the kind of "stratospheric law" that is embodied in parts of the Constitution and the Penal Code. It was a beautiful and just intellectual construction of what the obligations of the State should be to its citizens.

The General Education Law of 1972 marks an enormous advance over the legislative and administrative patterns of previous educational reform efforts. Not only does the new law directly attack the problems of wastage and productivity in a rapidly expanding public school system; it also has provided for a badly needed administrative decentralization that has invested additional authority in the regional and zonal offices outside Lima. It is now easier to solve routine personnel problems that for decades brought a mass migration of schoolteachers to Lima each summer to lobby and wait in the corridors of the Education Ministry. Beyond this, through the nuclearization of the school system, it has placed real power in the hands of parents and community leaders to influence the operation of the schools and see that teachers and administrative personnel fulfill their obligations. Implementation of the reform is moving along deliberately, year by year, and the new curriculum and methods have reached through the third year of primary school. There is a long way to go, however, and there are disturbing signs of conflict and confusion in the reform’s execution.

The kind of problems that seem to lie ahead are dramatized in the teacher retraining program that has been central to the reform effort over the past three years. The 1970 report of the Education Reform Commission asserted that the teacher must be converted into "a lucid and critical agent of the educational process and the other structural changes initiated in the country.... The difference between the old and new educational systems, not only in its general outline but also in its conception, doctrine, ends, and means, is of such magnitude that a new type of teacher is needed, as well as infrastructure, equipment, materials, and techniques adapted to its special character." To meet these needs the retraining of Peru’s 120,000 teachers has been assigned a key role of utmost urgency. "We are trying to get the teachers to shed their old methods and habits of thought," said Augusto Salazar Bondy. "We are trying to get them to think critically, to question everything, to enrich their own and their pupils’ perspective by constant discussion, to break through the old forms that made the school an instrument of domination by the ruling classes. This is the only way we can make the educational revolution."

One cannot get a feeling for the dynamics of Peru’s Education Reform without comparing this rhetoric with the Dantesque indoctrination procedures by which the military regime tries to reshape the thinking of a bitter and recalcitrant mass of teachers. In 1974 I visited teacher retraining sessions in Lima and Cuzco. In the town of Sicuani (population 13,000) near Cuzco, I found about 300 teachers corralled into a single classroom to suffer through a six-week series of three-hour lectures by envoys of the Education Ministry and other government agencies. One soon concludes that these lectures have little to do with the Education Reform and its new methods and curriculum, and that the official propaganda about questioning, criticism, and discussion boils down to supine repetition of what the lecturers have to say. Many of the lecturers are the same kind of young "promoters" who give talks to assemblies of peasants in the agrarian reform, explaining to both teachers and peasants that "Peruvian history has gone through three stages: the First Independence that lasted through prehistoric times until the Spanish Conquest in 1532; 400 years of Dependence that ended with the seizure of power by the ‘Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces’ on October 3, 1968, which initiated the third stage, the New Era of Peru’s Second Independence." While the military regime forces the teachers to sacrifice half their vacation periods without pay so they can receive this revolutionary message, the retraining sessions in many places have become merely another political battleground between the government and SUTEP. Ironically, the new methods of imaginative thinking and questioning are being taught to the teachers by the old methods of interminable lectures, rote learning, and submission to authority. Except for an item or two of political propaganda, there is no printed material available for reading and discussion.

In August 1973, several weeks before the uprisings in Arequipa, Puno, and Cuzco, a major disturbance occurred in Sicuani involving SUTEP and the secondary students. Edgar Figueroa, a teacher in the local Instituto Agropecuario who doubled as a rural organizer for SINAMOS, began attacking the other teachers as "counterrevolutionary" on his twice-weekly program on the Sicuani radio station. In response the teachers demanded his silencing or dismissal, but the major in charge of the Sicuani army garrison backed Figueroa and the teachers’ demand was ignored. The teachers went on strike. They staged a sit-in at the zonal offices of the Education Ministry while secondary students seized the gas stations at either end of town and felled trees to block the railroad tracks and the roads that were Sicuani’s only link to the outside world. The mobilization of the secondary students in Sicuani, as a few months later in the larger cities of the southern sierra, was the first time students below the university level were involved in large-scale street actions in Peruvian politics. The conflict ended when Figueroa was transferred to an office job in Cuzco. According to one secondary schoolteacher whom I met while attending the retraining course in Sicuani, "we all act as if we are prisoners of this society. The teacher feels that he is economically marginal. He does not have a political view of reality, but wants to earn more because he sees that the military earn more money and do less work. At the same time, the SINAMOS rural organizers are creating conflicts between parents and teachers. The SINAMOS people say we’re not doing our job, and tell the parents that they must report us to the authorities if we are absent from school."

"The teachers hate the military and are against the government," said an elderly school administrator who headed the retraining course in Sicuani. "They want more pay, and that’s all they’re interested in. At the same time, the people who come to lecture here often are badly trained. We don’t have anyone capable of explaining the new language and math curriculum to the teachers. The new teaching materials sent us from Lima were not enough and arrived late. We even lack stencils and paper to reproduce the lectures given the teachers. The retrainers come from Lima with very general ideas on politics and the new Peruvian society, while the teachers are angered by the fact that the retrainers earn much higher salaries than they do."

An internal progress report on the Education Reform drafted by the ministry’s regional office in Cuzco highlighted the following problems: "limited time for teacher retraining; late receipt of maintenance stipends of teachers being retrained [about $35 for the entire six-week period for those living away from home]; the teachers’ lack of reading habits; resistance by some teachers to the present changes; manipulation by SUTEP to obstruct the reform in Zone 54 (Sicuani), conditioning cooperation with the reform to the teachers’ economic demands; interference by officials in Lima; lack of retraining personnel; frequent use of the old methodology by the retrained teachers; resistance by parents."

While Peru still is far from realizing "Revolutionary Government’s" rhetorical pretension of creating ‘a social democracy of full participation," the agrarian and education reforms have greatly intensified the interaction between Lima and the provinces, and between the departmental capitals and the countryside. To appreciate both the Impact and enormous difficulty of these governmental initiatives, we must view these changes taking place in the remote and backward regions of the sierra that, until recently, were wrapped in the mantle of feudalism and almost universal illiteracy. Just as feudalism and illiteracy went together in Peru’s stagnant past, peasant revolt, land reform and the expansion of schooling are inseparable elements of her dynamic present. Several weeks after my visit to the teacher retraining sessions in Sicuani, I returned to the Cuzco region to see the related processes of land and education reform in operation in a setting where both the difficulties and the achievements can be much more easily understood.


The community of Huarocondo is nestled at the northwest edge of the Pampa de Anta, where the broad, windblown plain—flooded for much of the year—begins to rise into the Andean hills in subsistence patches that form a softly-varied quilt of browns and greens. The village itself, where nearly half the district’s population of 6,198 lives, is a classic mountain settlement of narrow, stone-paved streets lined by adobe houses descending gradually toward the plain. Smoke filters upward through the awkwardly drooping tile roofs in the early mornings as cows, burros, and sheep amble along the streets toward the fields. The village plaza is dominated by a colonial church in acute disrepair, with a badly tilted stone belfry, a sunken roof, and long-faded whitewash on its massive adobe walls. Indian peasants in frayed ponchos and floppy sheepskin hats emerge from the early morning mists typical of harvest time. Bent by huge burdens of cornstalks tied to their backs, they cross the Plaza de Armas in single file like the obeisant sheaves of misery in Joseph’s dream.

Huaracondo was in the heartland of the Inca empire, only 25 miles from the ancient capital of Cuzco. Anta’s soggy plain, the centerpiece of this scene, was as much a problem for the Incas as it is for today’s agrarian reform engineers. The Spanish chronicler Pedro Cieza de León reported in 1553:

"The water of a river that rises near this valley forms a deep bog which would be very difficult to cross without a broad and solid highway such as the Incas ordered built, with walls on either side that will last for a long time." Because of its water, wind, and clayey soil, the lush-looking Pampa de Anta has never been arable. Severe frosts occur throughout July and August on the basin floor, 12,700 feet above sea level. On the nearby upland puna, land must lie fallow between 10 and 25 years. Nevertheless, corn and some wheat grow in the protected crevices of the mountains, and potatoes on the colder heights. Loose clusters of eucalyptus trees and reddish tile roofs show the dispersion of rural settlement. Before the land reform, 80 per cent of the district’s land was in haciendas. The rural day wage has been rising from about US$.08 in 1958 to US$.70 today. The breakup of the hacienda system in Huarocondo was hastened by a series of peasant uprisings and land invasions in the mid-1960s, organized by the Trotskyite leader. Vlademiro Valer, who is now head of rural operations in the Cuzco region for SINAMOS. The total population of Huarocondo, as shown by censuses in 1940 and 1772, has remained virtually the same. Baum observes that "the migration of those between 15 and 30 years old is virtually total." They migrate mainly to the nearby tropical valley of La Convención—where a major peasant movement was led by Hugo Blanco, Valer’s brother-in-law—as well as to the cities of Cuzco and the coast. In the early 1960s the Club Social Huarocondino of Lima donated a band of musical instruments to the núcleo escolar of the home village. "The instruments long ago have disappeared from the school," said the government-appointed mayor, Jorge Velasco Cochán, who participated both in the La Convención and Huarocondo uprisings. "But we used the comets for the invasions of the haciendas."

At a corner of the Plaza de Armas of Huarocondo there is a small fonda, or eating-house, with long wooden tables and an earthen floor; in recent years it has been prospering with the patronage of mestizo government functionaries who roam the countryside and crowd the tables at mealtimes: agrarian reform engineers, literacy workers, policemen, SINAMOS promoters, schoolteachers, cooperative organizers, etc. When the Education Reform came to Huarocondo two years ago, the community already was part of one of the most complex land reform undertakings of the military regime. Some 68 expropriated haciendas and their peons, 37 Indian communities and 170 small farmers were joined into a single production unit, the Cooperativa Antapampa, embracing more than 5,000 peasant families and 80,000 acres of land, of which only 5,000 acres can be cropped and another 25,000 acres can be used as low-grade natural pasture. I visited the Antapampa project in 1970 during the early stages of planning and expropriation. When I returned four years later I found this huge cooperative in deep trouble because of the shortage of fertile land, the extremely poor communications—owing to the mountains and bogs—among the cooperative’s member communities, and the distance and distrust between the cooperative’s rank and file members and its managers and directors.

According to an internal SINAMOS report, there was "lack of training of members in all aspects and levels of the cooperative; rejection of the cooperative effort within the Revolutionary process; divisions and rivalries between the advisers and heads of the production units; groups linked to political parties seeking to benefit politically from the cooperative effort; distrust toward the agrarian reform caused by low production and faulty marketing, generating a negative attitude.... On the technical side, the cooperative is not rationally managed, with carelessness in the harvesting, underemployment of men and machines, payment of unjustified salaries, deficient marketing practices and a lack of programming and control. On the financial side, the cooperative will not be able to meet its loan payments."

The peasants readily express their bitterness over these shortcomings. Mamerto Huallpa Quintanilla, the community president, said that less than one-third of Huarocondo’s comuneros have joined the cooperative. "Most of our cormuneros have yet to be convinced that they would benefit from joining the cooperative," he added. "We are demanding an accounting of the cooperative’s finances, but the 1972 books still have not been balanced. We know that Antapampa is near collapse. Its funding is based on crop loans that are not repaid when the harvest comes in. They say there’s a profit but it’s really all government loans. The president of the cooperative spends all his time in Cuzco and never visits the member communities. The peasants complain to me that they have to wait from three to six months to collect a day’s wages. For this reason they refuse to do any more work for the cooperative. Last year’s potato crop was ruined by a fungus after the harvest because it was improperly stored. The Cooperative Antapampa is composed of three zones—Anta, Zurita, and Huarocondo. We of Huarocondo want to break away from Antapampa and form a smaller communal coop, but the agrarian reform office in Cuzco won’t let us."

Long before Huarocondo became a theater of agrarian reform, the community was deeply involved in the educational expansion and experimentation of the past three decades. According to the 1940 census, only one-sixth of Huarocondo’s school-age population (six to 14) and one-tenth of those 15 or older had ever been to school. However, by 1962,60 percent of the school-age children were enrolled. When Huarocondo’s núcleo escolar campesino was formed in 1956, there already were 17 classroom teachers working in the district and an enrollment of 536 pupils in what was to become the central school of the núcleo. The pupils "were crowded into four classrooms that lacked adequate lighting, enough seats, and other artifacts considered essential. Nevertheless, the limited facilities and resources were accepted over time by the people of the district. Some of the principal members of the community believe that, although the old school lacked some things, it did a better job than the núcIeo."

A similarly critical view was expressed to me this year by Mamerto Huallpa. "I have two kids in the núcleo school," he said. "In the fifth year of primary our kids can’t write a decent letter, whereas when we reached the third grade we had learned Spanish and could read and write. Many teachers simply don’t teach well. They live in Cuzco and arrive late in the morning. When they’re on strike, the children’s learning is affected."

Most of the pupils of the núcleo attend the eight satellite schools deeper into the countryside. According to Baum,

... the satellite schools are located between 30 minutes and four hours from the central school, either on foot or horseback. They are in settlements of roughly 300 persons who live away from the urban centers of the sierra. The school represents the only formal and constant contact the people have with the institutions of government. These communities are occasionally visited by members of the Civil Guard and the parish priest. But these visits are infrequent and very formal, which makes a close relationship with the community very difficult. It seems that the only institution that effectively exists is the school with its teachers. Consequently, through its action and not through other organizations that in reality do not exist, the major changes would take place on the puna. Helping the teachers of the satellite school is the director of the núcIeo and its supervisors. The program of visits to each satellite is planned a month in advance at the nucleo office in Huarocondo. Each satellite is visited by the director or one of the three supervisors at least once every two weeks. These visits often involve a meeting with the comuneros to discuss some new point in the program, such as the distribution of eucalyptus trees or the building of new facilities for the school.... The teacher in the satellite school often has no professional degree and thus cannot teach in the central school. His or her life is very difficult and without dedication or desire to continue teaching until retirement. Many teachers dislike their jobs. They were forced to go to the punas for the only job they could get. Generally, theirs is a solitary life apart from the community in which they make little effort to fulfill or improve the supervisors’ plans. Unfortunately for the school and community, the best teachers do not stay for more than two or three years. The teacher’s life on the puna is tranquil and unsupervised by the authorities of the núcleo. The schools are often closed. Sometimes the teacher has taken the pupils on an excursion at a considerable distance from the school. Other times the teacher is absent and the school does not function.

At the satellite school of Huayllacacha, about an hour’s walk from the village of Huarocondo, the Education Reform arrived two years ago in a flurry of colorful new textbooks and classroom placards announcing the new curriculum and the hope for a new attitude toward education. Following orders from the regional headquarters of the Education Ministry in Cuzco, Huarocondo’s Núcleo Escolar Campesino was merged with the older núcleo in the neighboring village of Zurite to form a larger Núcleo Escolar Comunal (NEC), embracing a total of 21 rural primary schools with 76 teachers and 3,275 pupils. The directors of the old núcleos were rival candidates for the new directorship, to be appointed by the ministry from a slate of three candidates chosen by an assembly of teachers, parents, and local authorities. But the Huarocondo director, a native of Puno, withdrew from the competition at the last minute and threw his support to his rival. "I realized that the other fellow had more courses in educational administration, and he would be sure to be picked by the ministry," he said. "This way we agreed that I would remain director of the subnúcleo in Huarocondo."

The NEC’s new director in Zurite, also a young man with the convivial manner of a skillful politician. explained that "traditional Peruvian education was memory-oriented, stressing reading and writing. With the Education Reform the child will have a new series of educational experiences to develop new lines of activity. We want children to learn how to reason and criticize. Parents at first are disappointed because the children don’t begin learning the alphabet immediately. The first grade begins with drawing exercises so the pupils learn how to use a pencil and other classroom materials. After six weeks of this preliminary work they begin the new Amigos reader, which teaches them complete words before they learn individual letters. With the Reform, there are no failures and no child repeats the year’s work."

The Amigos reader focuses on subject matter that would be familiar to any small town or country child, expressed in simple words and richly colored illustrations that are reproduced on placards that are hung on the walls of all the first-grade classrooms in Peru.

Much less promising of success are the new mathematics texts, which try to teach modern math, substituting the standard arithmetical operations with games comparing geometrical forms. The teachers complain ,that they do not understand the new teaching methods, and that the teacher retraining sessions that were supposed to instruct them in handling the new curriculum was so overloaded with political indoctrination that there was no time for learning these unfamiliar methodologies. In the satellite school of Huayllacacha, one young teacher told me: "The texts for modern math arrived in the second half of the school year. A child needs a great deal of reasoning power to solve these modern math problems, yet in the rural areas the diet is ver poor and children don’t usually have the energy and attention span to deal with these problems. As the math lessons progress, the problems become more difficult. These lessons were developed among middle class pupils in the experimental schools of Lima, and are very hard to apply in rural areas. In this area the children’s diet is mote (corn boiled in water), noodles, beans, and potatoes, and they have a lighter meal at night of some combination of the same food. They usually don’t eat at mid-day. We used to have a school lunch program at Huavllacacha, but that ended with the Alliance for Progress. Under the Reform, there’s less pressure on the children to learn Spanish fast. We must treat the Quechua children very gently to overcome their feelings of shame and inferiority. We teach entirely in Quechua in the first year and sing Quechua songs. We show them familiar objects and have them recite their names in Quechua and then in Spanish. Now the children don’t learn to read and write in the first year. We try to explain to their parents that they will learn in two or three years. We don’t conduct classes entirely in Spanish until the fourth grade."

The school at Huayllacacha is about 30 years old. A large part of the community used to be part of the Hacienda Huaypa Chico of the Romainville family, one of the principal landlords of the Cuzco region, whose Hacienda Santa Rosa in the La Convención Valley was the scene of one of the most important peasant revolts of the past decade. In the 1960s, under the Cooperación Popular program of President Fernando Belaunde Terry (1963-1968), the old school of Huayllacacha was greatly expanded into six classrooms, now accommodating 308 pupils. As in most Cooperación Popular projects, the peasants built the adobe walls of the new classrooms and the government contributed the windows, roof, concrete floors, doors, and blackboards. The school day is supposed to begin at 9 A.M., but both pupils and teachers straggle in at about 9:30 and classes don’t begin until around 10 o’clock. On the morning I visited the school, the director’s office had been broken into the night before and papers, notebooks, and records were strewn over the floor.

"This is the first time this has happened here," another teacher said. "The parents, however, have become indifferent to the school. They don’t show up anymore for communal work on fences and the school’s vegetable plot, nor will they make furniture for the classrooms. It is hard for the teachers to live in the community because there’s always a problem with food. The peasant women are too busy in the fields to cook for us. They live almost entirely on potatoes and chuño, and are not accustomed to meat. So the teachers must find food and cook for themselves, as well as find a place to sleep. Also, friction has developed between the parents and teachers. The press, radio, and SINAMOS stimulate hatred toward the teachers. The comuneros think we are rich because we earn a salary, thus we are always reminded of class differences. The parents always complain about our absences, but the only times they show up at the school are for enrollment and the ceremonies closing the school year. Between those days there is much laxness. In the old days, the teachers had to go from house to house at four or five o’clock in the morning to recruit people for communal tasks at the school. To improve our rural schools, the teachers must live in the community, know the comuneros, and convince them of the benefits of education. I have worked in rural areas ever since I graduated from the Tupac Amaru Normal School in Tinta. I had worked for awhile on the coast, near Tarma, but I returned to the sierra because I’m supporting two brothers at the University of Cuzco. It cost too much for me to live on the coast and still send money to my brothers at the university. It’s much cheaper to live in the sierra."

One of the early achievements of the Education Reform is said to be a sharp reduction of teachers’ absences in rural schools because parents have been encouraged to keep tabs on the teachers and have a certain leverage over local school authorities through the election of the núcleo director. At the central school of the Huarocondo subnúcIeo, as elsewhere, this new vigilance has generated resentment among the teachers. Most of Huarocondo’s teachers arrive in the morning on the slow train that descends from Cuzco past the great ruins of Machu Picchu toward the town of Quillabamba in the tropical valley of La Convención. To catch the 6 A.M. train, which is Huarocondo’s main connection with the outside world, the teachers must awaken in Cuzco at five and often do not return home until 8 P.M. They make this sacrifice in order to live with their families and to avoid the trouble and expense of maintaining two households. This kind of commuting, which places great stress upon both the teachers and the school, is one of many signs of the intensified communications between the city and countryside in recent years, yet it seems to contribute to the slackness and absences that have become legend in Peruvian education.

In Huarocondo the teachers, like the peasants, are critical of the government, but for different reasons. Teachers express their resentment largely in terms of the pressures from parents and the new professional demands on them generated by the Education Reform. A young fifth-grade teacher, who brings her eight-year-old son with her on the daily commute from Cuzco, explained that "the Education Reform has made the parents into watchdogs of the teachers. When a teacher is absent or late, the parents complain to the zonal office in Cuzco and the jefes there take action.

"This is a pre-peasant government that favors the campesino, and anything they say is right. While there is a great deal of propaganda about free discussion in the Education Reform, it is really taboo for us to talk politics, challenge authority, or to criticize. The parents complain to us that their children should start reading as soon as they enter school, but the reform manuals say they must start at a later point in the learning process. Our six-week retraining courses, which all teachers are forced to attend as their schools are brought into the reform, are conducted very hastily with emphasis on politics and ‘conscientization’ of the teachers. We teachers asked instead for practical demonstrations on how the new curriculum should be applied in rural areas. As it turned out, there was almost no retraining time spent on the new teaching techniques and the new manuals and materials arrived late in the school year. But the jefes say all is going well."


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