Use These Values in Our Daily Lives: Notes from An Update Interview with Alicia and Ruben

Sara Mamani Tito, center, enjoys an Andina lunch break with fellow Quaker Education Workshop participants

Notes from a Skype call with Alicia and Rubén, 11-12-09

RH: These kinds of activities (Quaker Education Workshops) were really important for people who are involved w/the English pgm for the Quaker schools, and for friends and colleagues who share our concern for using Quaker values, for teaching in the schools using Quaker methods.  Our internships in the US will help with this work.


RH: Many Friends are interested in knowing more about Quakers, about the beginnings of the Quakers in England, and in the USA.  Many churches and Quaker meetings here are programmed, we are Christians, we don’t understand many things about Quakers in the US and England. That’s why we think that it takes time (for Friends here) to become aware (of the basis for  implementing Quaker values in education.)

RH: I have had some experiences in my meetinghouse where young people, and even adults, are interested in knowing how the Quakers came to Bolivia, and how the Quakers in the US and all over the world are right now. They want to know: how do Quakers worship, about the beliefs, about the different beliefs. We shared that there are around 5 kinds of Quakers in the US. Around here we have maybe 10 different kinds of Friends.  For example, in my meetinghouse, we believe in the salvation and the sanctification, when I stayed in Poughkeepsie nobody talked about the salvation and the sanctification.  Some Friends who have been to the US or England say they know about this kind of Quakers.  Some young Friends can understand easily, for older friends in their 60s its really hard to understand this kind of difference.

AL: We have been here 4 months. Since we came back from the US, we have been and are still sharing with Friends and our colleagues in Quaker schools, about our experience in the United States. We had a workshop w/principals and teachers where we talked about our experience in the US, and we compared and analyzed the reality in our country, especially for Quaker schools. As Rubén said, it takes time. For people here, especially for Quakers, its very important and very impressive because we are the first 2 young teachers who had the opportunity to visit for a long time in the United States. 

“Use these Values in our Daily Lives”

RH: We talked w/people, teachers who came to the workshop. The principal of Emma Canaday school said we should use these kinds of values in our daily lives. and he said “our students have to know how to use these values in their daily lives”. Also, we learned that there are a lot of social problems w/young people in the cities – drugs, alcohol, music, etc. The principal said we should work w/the parents, the families of those children. 

Inspring the students
We have also shared our experiences with the high schoolers here. That was a really wonderful experience, to share with them how different the education is between Bolivia and the US. They had many different reactions about what we shared. We didn’t have time to speak with them individually about their reactions, but we observed two things: one, they have to improve their English speaking. The students said “If we know English maybe then we can have opportunities to go abroad to study, too”.  The second is that the students we spoke with realized they have to continue studying in the schools – they realized how important education is in their lives, in their families.

Plans for the Future: Supporting teachers & Administrators with Workshops
RH re the teachers: they said that it would be really good if we could do more workshops,  more getting all the Friends schools together, talking about not just the values, but also about the curriculum, the administration of the schools, and so on. One thing they said is that we need more meetings between teachers, especially to talk about Quaker education.  Plans for the future: for the next year we are planning a get together with BQE and the school teachers, getting to know each other and continuing to have workshops. With each school, they will share these experiences and put them together. 

AL: For next year we are planning to visit each Quaker school, in rural areas and here in the city. The teachers in the workshop said they haven’t ever had that kind of meeting (that kind of support) in their schools. This talking and sharing of experiences (will strengthen the schools). Even the principals don’t have these kinds of conversations with their teachers.  

We really want to have that kind of system, (where Quaker values are applied in the schools) but here its very hard, the culture is very different. Its very hard for Friends here to understand our experiences as interns in US schools.  I have to really think about what I want to say to my friends – how to tell them so they can understand, can be open to hearing more. They say we don’t have those possibilities here.  They are really interested to learn about Quaker testimonies, they want to practice them. The principals and the administrators are really interested too.

(I asked why they weren’t coming, if that was the case) AL: maybe they didn’t have time, maybe they were working on other things. Los Amigos had a sporting event in the morning (Deysi Ramirez is the new principal at Los Amigos upper school, became principal just this year. She is the first female Quaker school principal in Bolivia.) She called me, she was very interested to hear about our experience, and we talked with her for more than an hour. She was very disappointed that she couldn’t come because of the schedule conflict.

Quaker schools closing
AL: In this workshop, we were talking about and analyzing the history of two Quaker meetings, Santidad and Los Amigos. We discussed how years ago Santidad had 53 schools, and Los Amigos had 36! Now Santidad has just 6, and Los Amigos has just 1.  They were so surprised, as was I, wondering why we closed those schools and now have just the 7. I know that the Quakers here are very conservative, that means that the schools are conservative too.  Years ago, for example, they said they didn’t need to use technology – which then meant radios, tvs, etc. They were very doctrinal, and said the Spirit was going to lead us all.  (Now Quaker educators & leaders seek out technology to enhance Quaker educationa l experiences) The principals, the leaders of the schools weren’t education professionals, so they had many related problems.

Changes in Government Education Law
RH: When Evo Morales became president, the Education Ministry began working on a new law. Now the law is based on the peoples voice, ..the high-school seniors will be tri-lingual: their native language, Spanish, and 1 foreign language. Also there will be many changes: each student and each teacher is going to have a laptop. The government is planning those kinds of improvements in education. The government is also going to purchase and own a satellite,  they will use it for spreading information, especially for gaining access to world wide education. In the sciences, in the technology.  They see it as a good way to give some opportunity to the students.  Also good education.  We hope that sutdents can have better opportunities, more than they do now.  Its still expensive to have access to the Internet, even here in the cities. In the villages we don’t even have access at all yet.  Another change: when seniors finish high school, they receive a paper /certificate from the government. We used to have to pay for that paper, it will now be free, starting this year. We should put that law into practice in Quaker schools next year.

We have also checked the new education law. We found there are many similarities re talking about values. I would say that everything (in the new education law)  is related to Quaker values. Now the challenge is to put that new law to work. We have heard that many teachers are interested in that kind of discussion, that kind of … (?growth? learning?) Both Alicia and I, together w/Hermano Bernabé and the BQE-Bo committee, are trying to plan how we can have discussions with, do more workshops with the teachers.

Exploring Cooperative Agreements

At Achacachi, one of the Quaker schools asked the government to sign a cooperative agreement with them.  The government asked about the space in the schools, and also about the administration. But the school doesn’t have a lot of students, enrollment has been low for the last 5 years.

The problem here in the city is that the Quaker schools don’t have enough space compared to the public schools. That’s the only problem. I think the government is really open to the Quakers, because we share many things. I think that also we have some low points w/the government.

AL: Here the private schools, such as Quaker schools, don’t have help from the government.

RH: I think the government thinks that since the Quaker schools are private schools, they see the Quakers as having money. That’s totally wrong.  The Quaker missionaries who came from the US were the 1st people who gave education to the indigenous people, we don’t think the government realizes that. (Francisco Quispe, General Education Secretary for Santidad YM, is working on developing a relationship with the government, in order  to ease funding access concerns.)

Please tell Friends in the North:
RH: We would like the newsletter to also include that we are working on the model school.  This month we are going to send a model school project proposal to BQEF.   We’ve also been working with the scholarship students at BQE, many of whom have said “I have this idea for the model school”, so we are bringing together all those ideas in this project proposal.  Its also based on the new education law in Bolivia, and on our experiences in the US. 

We would also like to tell them about the English pgm, about the recital that we had last week  (re how well they are going.)

We send our greetings to all of our adoptive families and to friends here. We really miss them – and the hard work that we did there, and the food, and the beautiful trees, and many other things.

Thank you for each opportunity which US Friends, English Friends, and all the Friends around the world make possible – our internships, the computers, English programs, all of these kinds of acitivites which are really good for helping us.