“(We) The sons of tobacco and coca, understand education as much more than schooling. Its roots are in the laws of origin that have been passed from generation to generation. It is thought and defined collectively from the maloca, the mambeadero, the chagra, in rituals and ceremonies, and in each and every space of the every-day life. This knowledge is then further expanded and organized in the spaces of formal education (…)” ~Statement from local indigenous organization ACIMA to the Ministry of Education, 2004
Gaia Amazonas contributes to the improvement of the quality and pertinency of basic intercultural communitarian education and health in indigenous communities.
The process of learning, for the indigenous communities, is embedded in their everyday lives. The transfer of knowledge and values occurs in daily spaces through fishing, hunting, through tending the chagras (cultivated forest), in rituals and ceremonies, and in the ‘mambeadero’, the collective nocturnal talks. The challenge of developing an inter-cultural education, therefore, is to engage all the community (students, parents, men, women, shamans, maloqueros), look at the diversity of spaces where learning traditionally takes place, and prepare local teachers.
Gaia Amazonas supports community-based research, which provides the basis for each school’s curriculum, and the training of indigenous teachers. Field officers – linguists, pedagogues – help to ensure the transfer of language and knowledge for each of the ethnic groups. We provide capacity building in school administration and finance.
Armed with these tools, the indigenous communities can negotiate with government for the decentralization of education and receive state funding for their inter-cultural education programs. Gaia Amazonas has supported 14 indigenous local indigenous organizations, or AATIs, to develop their own programs for inter-cultural education – approved by the Ministry for Education and funded by the state.
100 community schools, in the Colombian Amazon, are providing an inter-cultural education to over 3,000 indigenous children from 20 ethnic groups.