Story by Ellie Bailey '19
This summer I spent two weeks studying women’s access to education at the Sacred Valley Project in the Andes of Peru. The need for the Sacred Valley Project arose from the lack of secondary schools and academic opportunities for women in rural Andean communities. Most communities have at least one elementary level school, but lack a secondary school within commuting distance. Thus, in order to receive the equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma, adolescents must live with relatives or on their own in larger towns where there is easy access to secondary education. Sadly, parents with limited finances tend to prioritize the education of their sons instead of their daughters. In other cases, parents who are cautious with their daughters are afraid to send them to live in an urban environment away from their immediate family. Consequently, only four in ten Andean girls complete their secondary schooling.
The Sacred Valley Project aims to mitigate the disparity between male and female education by offering young girls in Andean communities the opportunity to study in secondary schools, either in Ollantaytambo or in Calca. The Sacred Valley Dormitories provide room and board for students as well as supervision and tutoring by adult women.
Unfortunately, a portion of the girls who usually live at the dorm were away while my group visited because of a nationwide teacher strike. The teacher strike illustrates yet another barrier in the way of education for Andean peoples who rely on public education. The strike lasted roughly two months, ending on August 15.
Despite their ill circumstances, the girls who were present at the dorm displayed optimism and hope for their futures. One spoke eloquently in Spanish (Quechua is the first language of the students at the dorms) of her hopes to attend university and become a lawyer. Another dreamed of becoming an artist.
Aside from academic ambitions, the girls talked about their love of the Narnia movies. Together they sang their own rendition of “Libre Soy” (the Latin American version of “Let it Go” from Frozen).
As my conversation with the girls progressed, I realized that, while our pasts and ancestries were completely different, both me and the Sacred Valley girls had similar hopes to further our academic journeys and find happiness. I saw my own friends in these girls’ dreams and senses of humor. High school girls, regardless of country or language, are still high school girls.
Like NCS students, these girls had dreams to change their communities and better our world. Their intellectual curiosity mirrored that which NCS fosters in us. They too were truly women for the world.