Waldorf Education in the Land of the Incas
(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 174-175, Note the Copyright!)
Peru, the legendary land of gold, was ruled until 1531 by the Incas whose capital city, Cuzco, lay high up in the Andes Mountains. The Inca dynasty stemmed from the Ketshua group of peoples and languages. The high culture of the Inca peoples with its astonishing architecture, ceramic work, sculpture, weaving, metalwork and medicine arose out of earlier cultures. It was destroyed by the Spanish conquistadores who in their turn built their capital city, Lima, at the mouth of the Rimac river.
Foreign schools prohibited
The impulse to found a Waldorf School in Lima came from the husband-and-wife team Angelika and Wolfgang Spittler (W. Spittler 1934-1996). A small school, the Colegio Novalis, had been founded in 1967 with the help of Helmut von Kügelgen (1916-1998), Germany, but had had to close within a few years after the overthrow of the government and the prohibition on all foreign schools. The idea of founding a new school arose in 1971 during the first South American anthroposophical conference in Brazil. Preparations began soon afterwards with help and much personal commitment from many friends from various countries. Douglas Pundsack, Germany, was persuaded to become the founding teacher. Having been born in Spain he brought with him not only knowledge of Spanish but also 28 years of experience as a teacher at the Waldorf School at Engelberg, Germany.
Recognition as an experimental school
The new Colegio Waldorf Lima was opened in March 1982 by the promoting association Asociacion Benefica Pro Niño in a new school building with two kindergarten groups and three classes. It had necessitated intensive publicity work, training seminars and fundraising. In 1981 it had already been recognized by the state as a so-called “experimental school”. The experimental status meant that it would be possible to teach in accordance with the Waldorf curriculum.
One of its characteristics was the international composition of its college of teachers. The first few came from Peru, Chile and France and these were followed by teachers from Spain, Germany and several other Latin-American countries. In 1989 the Colegio Waldorf Lima was integrated in the network of UNESCO project schools which promotes innovative schools. On UNESCO Project School Days, pupils of the Waldorf School have planted trees, surveyed an Inca site protected by law as an historic monument, or carried out aid projects for schools in distress. The first pupils completed their schooling in 1990, which meant that Lima’s first Waldorf School had been built up to Class 12.
The rapidly deteriorating economic situation under governing president Alan Garcia at the end of the 1980s nearly brought the Colegio Waldorf Lima to its knees, as it did many other schools as well. The same is now happening under President Alberto Fujimori for similar reasons. Since many parents can no longer pay the fees, the number of pupils fell from 340 to 250 in January 2000.
Kindergartens and curative education
Further initiatives of the Spittlers were the Zarate Waldorf Kindergarten for workers’ children founded in an industrial district in 1986 and the curative school San Cristoferus founded in 1989. In 1994 Silvia Siccia founded the Waldorf Kindergarten Casita de Juegos with the support of the Christian Community’s development association, and in the same year Douglas Pundsack started the Waldorf Kindergarten Jardin de Infancia at Cieneguilla. Since 1998 the latter has developed to include another small Waldorf School outside Lima, the Colegio Waldorf Cieneguilla which comprised five classes in March 2001. There are two other Waldorf initiatives in the greater Lima area. At Chiclayo, in northern Peru, there are the early beginnings of an initiative and the same goes for Cuzco and Huancayo further inland.
Teacher training seminar receives official recognition
The growing need for teacher training within the country led Douglas Pundsack to found the private teacher training seminar Instituto Superior Pedagogico Schiller-Goethe in Lima. In August 1991 this teacher training seminar headed by Rosa Tasayco was officially recognized as providing training for kindergarten and primary school teachers. After an initial phase offering only in-service training, which still continues, it was possible in April 1994 to embark on the first 5-year full-time course for kindergarten and class teachers. The number of mostly very young Peruvians attending the five years of the course amounts to a total of almost 50.
On completing the course, graduates can teach at any state or private primary school. So this teacher training institute with its state recognition and with its aim to bring elements of Waldorf Education into mainstream education can be seen as having a pioneering character within Latin America as a whole. In December 2000 the third group of graduates finished their studies, and the first teachers trained there began their work in Lima’s Waldorf establishments.
Overall education policy
Although they are officially recognized, none of the Waldorf establishments in Peru receives any financial support from the state, which means that the fees required are in some cases quite considerable. In a developing country this leads to major questions and difficulties connected with finance if one does not want to prop up establishments that only an elite can afford. The lack of state support for Waldorf establishments has to be seen in the context of a great lack of political interest in education as such. In the ten years of Fujimori’s government 10 Ministers for Education have come and gone each of whom introduced reforms none of which really bore any fruit.
Education is totally under-valued not only by politicians but also by the population at large unless it can be linked to lucrative business propositions. Since 1993, however, the latter has in fact been possible under the constitution, so since then the quality gap between cheap and correspondingly bad state schools and expensive private schools has grown even wider. “No money, no education” is the prevailing attitude of those involved, and everyone knows the consequences that are likely to ensue.
Lack of motivation is also rife amongst teachers. Why should one invest one’s energy in a profession, or indeed where can one get that energy from, if the tiny salaries involved force one to hold down a second job as well?
A change in education policies will presuppose many small steps, as we all know. Waldorf Education in Peru would like to contribute to an improvement in the quality of education that is available in the country.
ROSA TASAYCO PAREDES
Rosa Tasayco Paredes
Class teacher. Co-founder of the Colegio Waldorf Lima and the teacher training seminar Instituto Superior Pedagogico Schiller-Goethe in Lima.
Since 1996 colleague and teacher of biology, geography and study of the human being at the Instituto Superior Pedagogico Schiller-Goethe in Lima.