The role of education and Bible translation in rural development

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According to this article in the Economist, the highlands of Peru have “long sheltered one of South America’s larger concentrations of poor people.”

But recent data shows that there are indicators of change: “new markets, lots of traffic (motorbikes, moto-taxis and vans) and modern farming techniques, including drip irrigation and farm machinery.” The author says this is primarily due to: 1) a burst of roadbuilding and road improvements started in the 1990s that expanded markets and; 2) mobile technology (ownership of telephones among people in rural areas has shot up from 2% in 2004 to 54% in 2011). Yet another example of rural people bypassing telephone landlines and going directly to mobile phones.

Making the trip from Cuzco to Abancay by road

Abancay, Peru

yesterday confirms the infrastructure–roads. Lots of large trucks transporting goods from point to point.

My experience in rural areas in other parts of the world, and my guess is the situation is similar in the Highland of Peru, is that farmers, using their mobile phones, are able to check market prices and sell their produce at the most opportune time, place and price. I am willing to further speculate that they are using their mobile phones to transfer money and do banking.

The author goes on to write that, in recent years, “…rural income per person has risen at an annual average rate of 7.2% in real terms (compared with 2.8% for urban incomes). Between them, the rise in income and better connections, add up to a radical transformation in rural Peru.”

But I wonder if these are the only reasons. I am hoping that my trip to the Highlands of Peru will shed some additional light on what the author of the article in the Economist describes as “dynamic” development in the region.

My guess is that he may have missed a key link to this development—improved educational opportunities and literacy both in local languages, like Quechua, and also Spanish.

Our visit to the Quechua area may shed additional light on this important issue. I am hoping we have the chance to visit with local agencies like the Asociación Interdenominacional para el Desarrollo Integral de Apurímac (in English AIDIA stands for The Interdenominational Association for the Holistic Development of Apurimac). “Holistic” because it ministers to both spiritual and physical needs, including teaching literacy. While very much interested in the translation of Scripture (the New Testament will be dedicated this Sunday—Old Testament translation is underway), they are also interest in the well being of their community and they know this is linked to teaching people to read and write.

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Yesterday a small team from Wycliffe USA visited with the Asociación Tawtantinsuyuman Evangelioq K’ancharinanpaq (ATEK) in Cuzco, Peru. Working with the Cuzco Quechua (according to the Ethnologue there are 43 languages that ‘qualify’ as Quechua), ATEK’s vision is to form functional healthy families, strong churches and Quechua communities that are organized and united. According to what we heard yesterday, and from their website, they work through holistic and sustainable development by providing training courses and tools to support evangelization in their own language as well as Spanish.

UNESCO says the ATEK reading comprehension “endeavors to empower Cusco Quechua people by facilitating access to literacy skills training and education.” ATEK has developed a large number materials around thematic areas including health, agriculture, animal husbandry, income generation and civic education.

The UNESCO site goes on to say that, “Although the [Cuzco] Quechua constitute a large group (about 1.5 million), they have largely been socially marginalised. High rates of illiteracy and a lack of socio-economic opportunities have limited their ability to participate in national developmental activities. ATEK’s literacy program empowers the Quechua with bilingual (Quechua and Spanish) literacy skills in order to enable them to improve their living standards, preserve their cultural identity and participate in national developmental activities.”

Many in rural areas continue to use the language in church and for business/commerce. Most also use Spanish, and parents, including the government, want their children to identify as Cuzco Quechua, but they also want them fluent in Spanish which will provide greater opportunities. For this reason, ATEK, working in many public as well as private schools, has developed materials to transition children from reading in their mother tongue to also reading/writing in Spanish.

ATEK has a special emphasis for children but that’s not all they do. Recognizing the need for adult literacy they’ve designed adult literacy materials to help members of their community learn to read and write a language they already speak fluently. As a recognition that many are oral learners, or may never learn to read and write, they’ve also worked closely with The Jesus Film and Faith Comes by Hearing to communicate the Gospel. The full Bible is also available. It is also available in electronic/digital format for smartphones at Bible.is.

Believing that the family is the basis for a healthy community, they place a heavy emphasis on marriage workshops and training facilitators who run the workshops with a goal of helping husbands and wives address marriage and family challenges.

One thing we found impressive was a multi-generational commitment to the development of the community through the use of the language. One teacher who presented yesterday was the daughter of one of the translators of the Cuzco Quechua Bible (pictured).

According to the UNESCO site, one of the impacts of the program has been the empowerment of women. “Given the patriarchal nature of Quechua society, one of the literacy programme’s main achievements has been to empower women to play an active role in civic life. Some women, for example, are now serving as the leaders of various community-based organizations (CBOs) and are thus spearheading developmental projects in their communities. Others have become literacy programme facilitators primarily because both their literacy and communication skills have improved.”

While this is anecdotal data, I believe this experience at ATEK shows that the investment in bilingual or multilingual education is a valuable asset local communities have that contribute to the overall socio-economic development of the whole country.

About Bob Creson

President/CEO of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, Orlando, Florida. It is an injustice not to have the right to read the Scriptures.
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One Response to The role of education and Bible translation in rural development

  1. Pingback: Valuing First Language Education in Vietnam | Bob Creson

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