Peru: Kusi Kawsay (translation: to live in happiness) is the name of a small Waldorf school in Pisac, a region in the Andes. There they even have their own teacher training course. The school goes up to class six and has 60 pupils and 10 members of staff. In the kindergarten there are two groups with 10 children each.
The cultural roots of the town of Pisac stretch back into the time of the Inca kingdom. It lies in a valley that the Incas regarded as holy. The town was important in terms of religion, agriculture and was also in an optimal position for military operations. The terraces, which created a maximum area for agriculture were well irrigated by a canal system, are still used by the indigenous population today. This is the home of a very special Waldorf initiative.
At first the Spanish rulers denied the indigenous population any form of official training. Later, in the 1950’s, when the educational system became public, education was turned into a weapon that was used against the indigenous population. They were taught that their culture was worthless. The goal was to train people in such a way that they would have a low self-esteem and be used to taking orders.
This is the background that gave rise to the strong wish for a different system of education that would place value on their ancestral culture, so that the young people could gain a healthy relationship to their traditions.
Lourdes Jibaja, a Waldorf teacher from Lima, was the one to take a step in this direction. She stared teaching a class at a state school. It went very well and one simply couldn’t deny that her pupils liked going to school, unlike the others. The new approach and the positive results, unfortunately led to conflict and Lourdes Jibaja left the school. However, her class followed her. All the pupils moved to the village that she had moved to.
After a further year full of complications at the state school in the village, the parents took initiative and the first seed of what was to grow into a Waldorf school was planted. To this day it is still growing and developing. The traditional festivals of the Andes culture are integrated into daily life at school, the children learn about their mythology and are taught that their culture is something to be valued. The name of the school shows clearly how the parents and children see the school – Kusi Kawsay means to live in happiness.