Thursday, October 16, 2014

Kogi Education

The view from the community. The Sierra Nevada de Santa
Marta is the highest coastal mountain in the world,
and that is a river running into the ocean.
(Picture taken by Marian Coy)
On the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in northern Colombia, live the Kogi Indigenous People. When the Spanish started arriving in the territory that is now Colombia, the Kogi were part of an ancient civilization called the Tayrona. Witnessing the destruction brought by the Spanish to other nearby peoples, the Tayrona decided to retreat higher into the mountain and separate into different communities. The Kogi of today are one of these communities. The Wiwa, Arhuaco and the Assario are others. Living separately for the last 500 years, these communities have developed into different recognized tribes with very similar cultures, but different languages.
Another beautiful view of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
(Picture taken by Marian Coy)
Last week I was able to visit a Kogi community that is working hard to develop a school which will not only be recognized and supported by the government but stays true to their culture and world-vision. The process was fascinating, and the results were exciting. Instead of focusing on rote learning in the classroom, the structures will be based on projects that will assist the community in its development vision. A project, for example, of building an organic composting system includes all subjects needed (math, natural science, social science, art, etc.). In this way the education process will contribute to the community’s development according to its own vision as well as impart their cultural vision to the next generations.
Marian, a volunteer for the human rights program,
and a master's student in education,
 facilitating the planning process. (Picture taken by Curtis)

I was able to share my experience in an Indigenous community in Southern Mexico
and the education system they have developed. (Picture taken by Marian Coy).

Jose, one of the teachers, walking the group through the process of
building houses as a possible project, utilizing all school subjects.
(Picture taken by Marian Coy)
The committed teachers of the school spent three long days planning these projects, ensuring they are not only teaching the school subjects, but also cultural ethics and values. Discussions were held over every project about whether or not it successfully included environmental consciousness, the empowerment of women, skills training for life in the community, the strengthening of participatory processes and democratic values. The implementation of these projects for education is important and I am excited to accompany this community throughout the process.
The group of teachers and community leaders involved in the process
before we went back down the mountain (I am in the back row).
(Photo taken by Marian Coy)