Ñamandu: Waldorf education with the Mbya under palm leaf roofs
In the middle of the Argentinian jungle, in the indigenous community of Ñamandu, a small school was established in 2015. Children who live around Ñamandu attend the school. The jungle dominates the area and the locals cover their huts with palm leaves. In 2016, the school was supplemented by a Waldorf Kindergarten, to look after the youngest children of the Mbya-Guaraní tribe. There the mornings are spent according to the methods of Waldorf education and the culture of the Mbya.
It is now residents of the village who run the Kyringue´i Aty Ñeovanga kindergarten: Mirian Benitez and Diego Escobar. Both of them, as well as all the other adults, were not lucky enough to attend school, because Ñamandu is a four-hour walk from the nearest school. Moreover, mainly white people attend that school and their life has little social overlap with the Mbya culture. Often the children from the tribes feel uncomfortable there and are also bullied. Mirian and Diego are all the more enthusiastic when they do traditional songs, dances and handicrafts with the children and also when they attend a Waldorf teacher training in the provincial capital on the weekend. They grow together with the children in the face of the many new challenges the project faces, such as lack of water, wildfires, social conflicts, and the preservation of the old myths and stories of the Mbya.
Originally, the kindergarten was founded by two volunteers. Volunteers continue to come every year through the Friends of Waldorf Education to help Mirian and Diego. At the request of the chief, another kindergarten was established in a neighboring community and a father from the village agreed to work as kindergarten teacher.
Since the Mbya-Guaraní are a withdrawn people, they have managed to avoid the Spanish conquests and the missionary work of the Jesuits and therefore still live in the jungle in northeastern Argentina. Culture and religion have largely been able to survive until today, but with the steady shrinking of the jungle and new digital influences these too are at stake. The future remains uncertain for the children of the kindergarten.
Children's health suffers particularly from the influences of civilised society. Flour and sugar are increasingly displacing the berries and crops of the jungle and only few animals can be hunted in the shrinking forest. At school, the children receive three protein-rich meals a day. But even there they lack money for healthy food with cassava, bananas, sweet potatoes, beans, and vegetables. The kindergarten is financed through donations and through the sale of wooden animals carved by the parents. Additionally, we collect donations for bananas and a healthier lunch. A group of former volunteers from Germany takes care of these administrative tasks for the kindergarten.