Celebration of Education in Malingua Pamba, Ecuador
Annual Event in April
Back in April, 2003, when I first discovered Malingua Pamba (mainly because I was lost and was helped by two indigenous Kichwa boys), the children there only had just a one-room school room with one teacher. The community was so delighted to have a teacher that they had built her a little, very modest apartment because she had to arrive by bus, which took 2.5 hours on Mondays and only returned to her home on Fridays. The teacher had barely any supplies, in specific, only one book per grade level! Her name was Rosa Paez. I am not certain who funded the one room school, but I do know that the community was appreciative of having an educator in their midst. Students lost interest in attending this one room school around age 9, perhaps part of the reason I was motivated to help with planting and taking care of animals in this agrarian community.
When I returned to Malingua Pamba six months later, in October, 2003, ostensibly to help the two boys, Lautaro and Pedro, get a high school education, the leader of the community, Juan José Manuel Sacatoro, requested that I provide the money for the materials to build a second classroom. Don Manuel said that the community would provide the labor gratis in the form of ‘mingas’. In fact, it is this Kichwa community spirit of “barn raising/volunteer work”, called a minga, which has been my mantra ever since. Before I agreed to provide the money, Don Manuel and I met with the Department of Education in Latacunga (our provincial seat). After two weeks, we received a letter saying that “if the money is available” they would provide a teacher. (Note: as the people in the Dept. of Education greeted Don Manuel by name, it was clear that he had been in conversation with them previously to help grow their modest educational system.) We figured that the Dept. would lose face if they didn’t provide a teacher after we provided the building, so we proceeded.
In our design, we incorporated a large classroom plus a teachers’ two-bedroom apartment with a shower. We celebrated the inauguration of this structure in September, 2004, a mere one year after the concept was conceived! However, the teacher’s shower was not reliable; it was only then that I realized that there was not an adequate source of water to the community, but that is a Whole Separate Topic! Meanwhile, this was also time for the school year to commence. Then the Dept. of Education informed us that the money wasn’t available at this time. So, my friends, sponsors, and I also financed a teacher for 8th grade. Of course, at the beginning of the following school year, Sept, 2005, we needed a teacher for 8thand 9th grades! Again, the Dept. of Education did not have the funds. It was the same story in Sept, 2006. (Meanwhile, earlier in 2006, I was able to form a non-profit corporation called Centro Educativo La Minga, Inc. This made it much easier to raise the necessary money to pay for the teacher as well as the Potable Water System – again a much larger topic!) Alas, we also needed more classrooms! So, construction began on the second story of our modest little school building. (Note: About this time Engineers Without Borders, Denver Professional Chapter, became involved in the design for Potable Water.)
The teachers for these early years were not ‘professionals’, i.e., they did not have an educational degree. Our school was operating as a Colegio a Distancia under the auspices of a program called Colegio Monseñor Leonidas Proaño – Weekend High School – so the lessons were taught only 2 days/week. We were considered a private educational facility. With the invaluable help of Byron Limaico Bayardo Bassante, who worked in the Department of Education in Quito, we began the transition process from private to public. At this point the Dept. of Educ. began paying for the salary of one teacher per year, then for two teachers the following year, and so on. Please note: this was not without a LOT of effort on my part, along with the help of Jean Brown and others.
Yet again, we were running out of classrooms, so, we began the plans for a second (or 3rd, if you count the first, free-standing pre-2003 classroom) educational building. By then we had potable water in Malingua Pamba. Also, I’ve become aware of earthquakes in the Andes. We had our design, especially the foundation, properly vetted by an Ecuadorian structural engineer. This design includes a very large room which can be used as a classroom, community meeting room, and/or cafeteria; in addition there is a community kitchen, storage rooms, medical room, and two types of shower facilities. It is designed to support one or two more stories. We inaugurated the Edificio Grande in 2009.
Around 2016, the Dept of Education inaugurated a new rule. All colegios must have a ‘proper’ science lab; however they will not fund the construction of this, nor do they provide an ‘approved’ design! So back to the drawing board. Alejandro Saldaña and his architect friend traveled to Ecuador to tour a recently built ‘millennial school’ with an approved Science Lab. Along with the leaders of Malingua Pamba, they designed a second story for the Edificio Grande, which includes a Science Lab, Science Classroom, Computer Lab and an office. The inauguration of La Segunda Etapa of the Edificio Grande was celebrated in October, 2019.
As for the teacher salaries, there are currently two colegios operating in Malingua Pamba. One is the presencial[LV1] system, which operates on a ‘normal’ 5-day school week. All of the teachers must have a degree in education as well as in the subject they are teaching; we have approximately 14 teachers. All of these teachers are paid for by the Dept of Education. However, there still are some students whose families need them to work the fields, so Colegio a Distancia is still operating two days a week. At the time of this update, April, 2022, the funding for the three Colegio a Distanciateachers is evaporating and our 20 students are being abandoned by the Dept of Education – mid-school year!
The two colegios (weekday and weekend schools) are the only high schools within a 2-hr walking radius from Malingua Pamba. The ‘near-by’ elementary schools are our feeder schools. (Note: there is no bus system!) All of the Malingueños plus the neighboring Kichwa communities continue to be very grateful and proud to have the opportunity for an education. For the past two Aprils (2021 & 2022), there has been a celebration of the educational system organized by Maria Blanca Sacatoro Toaquiza. Blankis [LV2] wears many hats, but at this time, my favorite role for her is our beloved Librarian. She has been instrumental in helping preserve some semblance of education with the strict Ecuadorian COVID guidelines. She helps tutor students who are struggling as well as inspire them to work hard to achieve their educational goals. It was because of the photos and videos that she sent from the April, 2022 Celebration of our Educational Institution in Malingua Pamba that I was inspired to write this short (?!) synopsis of how the educational system has developed in Malingua Pamba, parroquia Isinlívi, canton Sigchos, provincial Cotopaxi, Ecuador. The Kichwa and Centro Educativo La Minga, Inc are very proud of our accomplishments in basic primary and secondary education! This, of course, has led to many university, community college and vocational accomplishments. You can find the accomplishments of some of our graduates elsewhere on this website. Feel free to ping us with your thoughts!