Salir Adelante Disrupted: Exploring the Impact of Covid-19 on Educational Trajectories of Rural Indigenous Youth in the Peruvian Andes

Levitan, Joseph | $58,521

Quebec McGill University 2021 SSHRC

Aims: Through this project we will: a) explore the impact of COVID‑19 on the educational trajectories of rural Indigenous students in the Peruvian Andes; b) identify the immediate and long-term teaching and learning needs of rural Indigenous communities in Peru as a result of the pandemic; and c) collaborate with students, parents, community leaders, and institutional authorities to address the needs and challenges identified by the communities.

Background: Prior to Covid-19, the inequitable distribution of educational opportunities for rural Indigenous communities in Peru was well documented (Ibarra, 2013; López, forthcoming; Marino, 2014; Post, 1985). From insufficient resources to colonizing practices and materials, Indigenous youth have significantly less access to quality educational opportunities than their non-Indigenous counterparts. Covid-19 has exacerbated these inequities (DeLuca, 2020; IWGIA, 2020), disrupting schooling and forcing a shift to remote learning. Most rural Indigenous communities in Peru lack access to Internet, cellphone service, and books (Huaman, 2013; Levitan & Post, 2017; Johnson & Levitan, 2021a), so remote learning is challenging for most, and impossible for some. While urban middle-class students have access to online resources, rural communities have relied on brief lessons delivered haphazardly, such a via radio, which were not always available (Johnson & Levitan, 2021a).

Our pilot research (Johnson & Levitan, 2021a, and ongoing) confirms significant difficulties to accessing education throughout the pandemic, disrupting the already challenging educational trajectories of rural Indigenous youth. We found that students toward the end of their studies, such as those preparing to graduate or who had recently entered higher education, were most impacted, with many dropping out. The situation is so bad that the president of Peru has declared a state of emergency for the entirety of the county’s educational system (kindergarten-secondary, university, and technical education)–citing in particular the inequality that the pandemic has exacerbated (Government of Peru Decreto Supremo 014-2021-Minedu, 2021). The emergency decree states specifically that special attention is needed for rural, Indigenous communities. Yet, very little is known about the impacts of limited access to education during the pandemic. While the ministry of education is attempting to quantify “learning loss” of rural communities, a complimentary, more effective, and socially just way to understand the challenges and learning implications of Covid-19 is through community-based participatory research, in which the communities speak for themselves.

Methods: As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, and as schools and government consider how to address the pre-existing and new challenges facing rural Indigenous students, we will work with 20 communities in the District of Cusco to engage in community-based participatory research and collaboratively: 1) identify the challenges that students are facing, as well as strategies communities have used to continue to educate their youth non-formally–using traditional community processes, storytelling, and photo-voice methods; 2) develop policy and practical solutions with communities through traditional decision-making processes and future-creating workshops, and 3) collaboratively create policy documents and a media campaign to inform regional and national educational authorities about the realities of education from rural community members themselves. We will work with communities over four years to generate broad and deep insights about educational policy and practice to help teachers, schools leaders, and policy makers understand the shifts needed to adjust to the new realities.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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