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Open Access Capstone

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The people of the altiplano (Andean highland plateau at around 13,000 feet above sea level) are the epitome of physical strength, ancient wisdom, and tenacity of character. They are the Aymara and Quechua people, descendants of the Inca and Tiahuanacota cultures; they live in one of the highest permanently inhabited areas on earth and have blossomed from their ancient heritage. Although the imminent impact of western and contemporary influences are at their doorstep, both the Aymaras and Quechuas struggle patiently to strengthen their cultural traditions. Aymara family traditions revolve around the chacra, the main agricultural unit for survival on the isolated altiplano where they raise llamas and sheep according to the seasonal calendar. Fathers, mothers and children are involved in the multiple tasks associated with daily living, which leaves little time for promoting school activities. Not surprisingly, few are the relative number of children who go to school on a regular basis, added to this is the glaring scarcity of schools in rural Bolivia. Today, however, rural families face a great dilemma, on the one hand, through contact with the Western world they realize that formal education is becoming a springboard for surviving in a modern world where they are a part of already; and on the other hand, they do not have the tools to deal with educational issues the western world has introduced such as literacy, vocational education, etc.

This study is part on an ongoing project with Aymara families from several communities of the province of Tapacari in the depa1iment of Cochabamba, Bolivia. The study approaches the world of education as a means of systematically promoting indigenous knowledge and literacy. The families involved in the project are open to exploring alternative learning modalities including non-formal education. Encouraged by several Aymara families' willingness to learn, the Family Literacy Program was born in 1997 by defining two basic levels of actions: first, understanding early childhood development and second, exploring learning avenues for adult education. My participation in the project focuses on the development of the overall design of the family literacy program and on the training of the facilitators and community workers from the NGO that runs the project