Award-winning education for Peru‘s indigenous communities

The Education Team of FZS‘ Peru Programme were celebrated for their work in the National Parks of Madre de Dios.

The Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) has been working in Peru for over 40 years, with the aim to preserve and protect the biodiversity of the Eastern Andes Rainforest. To this end, the Peru Programme undertakes vital work to place environmental education at the heart of the school curriculum in the Madre de Dios region of southeastern Peru. Additionally, FZS Peru ensure that students of all local cultures can benefit from such education, regardless of their spoken language.

The dedicated work of FZS Peru‘s Education Team was recognised recently at a regional awards ceremony. Enrique Herrera Sarmiento and Percy López Campana are integral members of FZS Peru‘s Education Department and are passionate about transforming education in Madre de Dios. Sarmiento and Campana were presented with awards for ‘Persons and Authorities Committed to the Education Sector‘ for the work of FZS Peru in the Manu and Alto Purús National Parks.

“Receiving this award fills me with happiness,” says Percy López Campana, Environmental Education Specialist for FZS Peru.

Percy López Campana The recognition of FZS Peru‘s work strengthens my commitment and dedication to develop educational services and enhance student learning. Percy López Campana

Educational support for students in Manu National Park.

In 2015, FZS Peru, alongside Manu National Park and the Municipality of Fitzcarrald, opened the Maganiro Matsiguenka boarding school. Here, both male and female students from all local and indigenous communities can gain access to secondary education when non is available in their community. Furthermore, the school supports indigenous students who wish to attend higher education in applying to university, an opportunity that was formerly not available to them.

“From my previous working experiences in the Bolivian Amazon, I knew that young indigenous people cannot attend any university,” explains Enrique Herrera Sarmiento, Education Programme Coordinator for FZS Peru.

To improve access to higher education for indigenous students, FZS Peru partnered with Nopoki University. Nopoki University is a specialist centre that actively promotes the integration of students from indigenous communities of the Peruvian Amazon. Through the partnership of FZS Peru and Nopoki university, scholarships were established for students from the Maganiro Matsiguenka boarding school. Educational and emotional support are also available throughout the students‘ university careers.

After four students from the Maganiro Matsiguenka boarding school were accepted to Nopoki University in 2018, an increasing number of students are now applying to university.

“From that moment on, the youth of Manu understood that access to university was feasible and several of them began to express that they wanted to go to university as well,” says Sarmiento.

Enrique Herrera Sarmiento Currently, there is a lot of excitement about university studies among the younger generation. Now, many teenagers say, ‘when I finish school, I want to go to Nopoki University.‘ Enrique Herrera Sarmiento

Environmental education in Alto Purús National Park.

To support primary education in Alto Purús National Park, FZS Peru has developed teaching resources that help to place environmental education more centrally within the school curriculum. The workbooks ‘Pepe the Giant Otter‘, ‘Pablo the Andean Bear‘, and ‘Paulina the Jaguar‘ are some examples that use native species to engage children with wildlife and conservation.

“These workbooks have been the starting point of the whole educational process we have been promoting among the indigenous children,” explains Sarmiento.

Enrique Herrera Sarmiento Promoting awareness and knowledge of the environmental surroundings of the children is one of the purposes of the educational work we carry out. Enrique Herrera Sarmiento

These workbooks have been translated into a range of local languages, including Spanish, English, and the languages of Peruvian indigenous communities. This ensures that all children, regardless of their culture, can learn about the threats facing their country‘s most iconic species. Whilst these materials provide support to teachers wishing to engage children with local wildlife and conservation, Sarmiento believes that more work still needs to be done to consolidate environmental education in the school curriculum.

“The production and application of environmental education materials should be linked to the official curriculum of the Ministry of Education,” emphasises Sarmiento.

 “In this way, it gains greater legitimacy in the eyes of teachers who were sometimes reluctant to use them. The challenge for our educational programme in 2020 is precisely to re-edit these educational texts that are already outdated and to prepare new ones based on the official curricula, incorporating the approach of bilingual intercultural education and environmental education.”

The recent award for ‘Persons and Authorities Committed to the Education Sector‘ is a recognition of FZS Peru‘s hard work. The award serves to strengthen the commitment of FZS Peru in improving bilingual intercultural and environmental education in Madre de Dios. In doing so, FZS Peru strives to support young people in education and inspire the next generation to conserve Peru‘s unique biodiversity.

Header image: FZS Peru‘s Education Team have developed teaching resources with a focus on native wildlife. These workbooks have been translated into a range of local languages. © Boris Mercado

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