Sunday, September 13, 2009

Week 3

This week I´ve completed interviewing almost all of the Mosqoy students. On Thursday we went back to Ollantaytambo to conduct the selection process of the next batch of students.

Our day started by going to the Ollantay collegio (high school), where Ashley, Raul and several of the Mosqoy 1 students distributed the applications. The students had about 30-45 mins to complete the applications. We received about 70 applications that day. The team then went to a coffee shop in Ollantaytambo to review the applications. The reviewers consisted of Ashley, Raul, and five Mosqoy 1 students (Ebhert, Erlinda, Elvira, Rolando and Adrian). Gerry and I participated as the observers.

They had a four-star system going on, where each reviewer would rate each application from one star being the worst to four stars being the best application. In total each application was reviewed seven times. The ratings were based on the students´ responses, with the focus on whether they had any specific plans for when they graduate, whether those plans included ways to help their respective communities, and whether they´ve included any examples of how they´ve demonstrated their leadership abilities in the past. Generally, a person would get shut down if they put that they want to leave the country once they graduate or if they had incomplete one-sentence responses. I read a few of the applications and was startled to see how many times under the ¨family situation¨ question the students would talk about their fathers being drunks, or that they didn´t have parents at all.

It took almost an entire day to review all of the applications. In the end almost 40 applications were eliminated based on the preliminary application review and ratings. About 25 applications received 3- to 4 star ratings, which were placed in the pre-selected batch. Another 6-7 were placed in the ¨maybe¨ batch pending reviews of their grades and discussions with their teachers.
The next morning we went back to the high school to review the selected students ´grades. About 4 students from the ¨maybe¨ batch were eliminated due to low grades.

Three more students from Mosqoy 2, Dina Alvarez, Gisela Vilches, and Maberic (who are also all featured on the Education Generation website) joined us the second day.

In the end there were about 30 students that were pre-selected. Ashley and Raul then announced their names and held a meeting with the pre-selected students. During the meeting Raul invited a doctor and a dentist from Ollantaytambo to talk about different careers that exist in medicine. Mosqoy is now trying to promote other disciplines of study as almost 85% of students choose to study tourism or hotel management since it is the only thing that the students are exposed to in Cuzco and in their communities. Dina Alvarez, who is studying nursing, talked about opportunities that exist in the nursing career and why she likes studying nursing. Maberic talked about why she chose to study Gastronomy and Gisela talked about her chosen career of tourism and hotel management.

After the short presentation there was some time for Q&As. We then took pictures of every pre-selected student. The next step of the selection process is to meet with the students and their parents and/or their legal guardians to ensure that they are supportive of their kids participating in Mosqoy. This meeting is scheduled for Sept 26, after I leave Peru. Ashley, Raul and the Mosqoy 1 students are also planning to visit each of the pre-selected students’ houses to ensure that there is indeed financial need. One of the Mosqoy´s criteria is to support only those deserving students that don´t have other means of paying for their education. So for example if their family is well-off enough (relatively) to support their kid at an institute, they will be eliminated at this stage.

The next step will also involve discussing the pre-selected students with the teachers and other people from the community focusing on their past behaviors and their family situations to again ensure that there is indeed financial need and to ensure that there are no red flags about the pre-selected students. After these final steps, Mosqoy will make a final selection of 12-14 students, which will all be featured on the Education Generation´s website.

Friday afternoon we went back to Cuzco, just in time to visit a cooking class of the three of the Mosqoy 2 students (who are all also Education Generation´s students): Guillermina Duran, Fiorela Zegarra, and Maberic Vazquez.

The class was two hours long, and our students made a wonton soup, part of their Cocina Internacional course. At the end of the class we all got to taste their creations.

Later on that day we went to Raul´s house for some dinner and drinks.

Maberic Vazquez, one of Education Generation´s students, during her cooking class

Maberic and Fiorela cooking

Fiorela Zegarra, one of Education Generation´s students, during her cooking class

Guillermina Duran, another one of Education Generation´s students

From left to right: Fiorela, I, Guillermina and Maberic

Maberic talking during the selection process

Dina Alvarez, another one of Education Generation´s students, talking about a career in nursing during the selection process

Gisela Vilches, Education Generation´s student, talking about her career in tourism during the selection process.

From left to right: Gisela Vilches, Maberic Vazquez, and Dina Alvarez

Reviewing the applications

Students completing the applications at the high school

Friday, September 4, 2009

Week 2

My second week: this week I’m taking Spanish classes and living at a homestay organized by the school. Everyone in my homestay family is very nice and I get to eat home cooked meals, which is good especially when travelling. Spanish is quite necessary here as almost no one speaks English even in Cuzco and the students’ English is very beginners’. Most have expressed their desire to improve their English though, and a lot of them want to also learn Japanese and French. There is a funny story during one of the interviews a student told me that he wants to study Japanese, and when I asked him why, he said because most of the technology comes from China these days and that he wants to be up to date with the technology. When I told him that Japanese and Chinese are not the same he seemed very surprised, and we had a good laugh about it.
The rest of the time Ashley and I were conducting and videotaping individual student interviews. I don’t have many pictures from this week as I was just videotaping the interviews. I can’t upload the interviews here as the internet is painfully slow in Peru and takes hours to upload just the pictures. However I hope that I will be able to upload them once I’m back in Canada.

So this week has been really busy, with Spanish classes all morning and interviews with the students all afternoons.

The interviews went really well, some of the stories were really heartbreaking though.
The students were very comfortable in front of the camera and were willing to discuss a lot of things. For example, one student named Adrian told us a story of his family, where his mother had to escape to the jungle for 5 years because his dad was an alcoholic and was beating her badly. Adrian and his two younger brothers were left alone with their dad, who continued to beat them. Adrian was saying that he was very grateful to escape the violence by participating in Mosqoy, but was worried about his two younger siblings who are still in Ollantaytambo with his dad. Another student, Marleni, started crying during the interview (and I had to stop videotaping) because her mother was very sick and she was very concerned about her mother. Another student told us that she’s been living alone since she was 10 years old as both of her parents died and she’s been living with random foster parents since then and working as a maid in their houses. She too was very grateful for the opportunity to study and become a professional. Another students´ parents abandoned him when he was very little and he was raised by his grandparents, and does not have any contact with his parents.

The students shared their dreams and hopes, likes and dislikes, and I’m hoping to translate the interviews and upload them once I get to Canada with subtitles as all of the stories are absolutely amazing. The students were so sincere and open, each one with a unique story. So far I have 14 interviews completed, some of which are the Education Generation students, and I think I should be able to complete most of them before I go back.

There were some funny interviews as well. Jonathan Guerrera, when asked whether he had a girlfriend, said that he thought that girls can be annoying sometimes, constantly asking, ¨where are you, what are you doing, why didn’t you call me (this is a direct translation of what he said) and he added that he didn’t want to deal with it now. There’s a student named Alex who, in addition to studying computer science, reads philosophy books of Plato and Aristotle and currently his favourite book is ¨Rich Dad Poor Dad¨. A few of the male students, when asked what they didn’t like about living in a house with everyone, told us how the girls in the second group don’t always get along with each other and fight from time to time, which was really funny, because they were describing these typical cat fights among girls.

Some of the students had pretty impressive plans for the future. For example, Jonathan Medina and Ivanhoe (both Education Generation students) want to start up an eco-tourism company and had a detailed description on how they wanted to go about it. Dora too wants to work for a couple of years and save up some money to open up her own travel agency.
On Tuesday this week we went to visit the Americano Institute, where most of the Mosqoy students are studying at. We attended a class on administration and sat for the first 2 hours of it. The Institute is pretty small, with small class sizes of about 20 students and small classrooms like in a high school. There’s a library and a computer room, but the computer room can only be used during a computer class. The students have exams next week and some this week. I ran into one student Elvira who seemed very upset and when I asked her why she told me that she had an English exam that evening and was worried about it.

This weekend I’m going to check out Lake Titicaca and the floating islands, so more updates to come next week!
The students' schedule
The computer room
One of Mosqoy's students in a classroom