The III Meeting on Public Education and Indigenous Peoples, held from 15-16 May in Cusco, Peru, brought together indigenous education union leaders from several countries. The participants demanded respect for their communities’ rights, a multicultural and multilingual education, and integration based on understanding and equality.
The meeting was part of the public education work actively pursued by the EI Regional Office in Latin America since 2009.
This was the third such meeting to discuss and elaborate public policy proposals on education and native peoples. The first was held in Guatemala in 2009, followed by Bolivia in 2010.
The aim of these meetings is to further develop trade union strategies and policies to defend the right of indigenous peoples to public education and to press forward with the proposal for alternative education policies.
The participants included EI affiliates ANDE Costa Rica, UNE Ecuador, CONMERB Bolivia, UNE Paraguay, CTERA Argentina, CEA Argentina, CPC Chile, SUTEP Peru, CNTE Brazil, and UEN Norway.
Systematic approach At the meeting, indigenous trade union leaders shared their experiences and views on education and the reality of the lives of the indigenous peoples in their countries. Environmental issues, particularly mining and hydroelectric power in the indigenous communities were also discussed.
The approach of the Latin American pedagogical movement towards the issue of indigenous populations was also reviewed. This dialogue was set in motion by EILA at the First Meeting: Towards a Latin American Pedagogical Movement, held in Bogota, Colombia, in December 2011.
Their own voice, their own views “The Terena ethnic group from Brazil was taken by force to the city to ‘civilise’ us; they taught us a style of farming that was not ours and medicine that was not ours,” said Wanderley Dias Cardoso, a member of Brazil’s Confederación Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE). “Our rights have improved: before, we did not own our land and there was no talk of what we wanted from our education.”
Sisa Pacari Bacacela, of the Unión Nacional de Educadores (UNE), Ecuador, said that in Ecuador, there are 14 ethnic groups, with 14 languages, and they are fighting to ensure they don’t disappear. “Education should take into account the philosophy of each of our indigenous groups. For us, integration has always meant disappearing into the creole group, being subsumed by the white population; what we want is integration based on understanding and equality.”