ECUADOR: Achuar youth return to classes
Salesian missionaries continued education and support for Achuar youth during the pandemic
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries have remained active and engaged with the Achuar, an Indigenous population in the Ecuadorian Amazon, throughout the pandemic. In 1988, the Achuar asked Salesian missionaries to start a mission in Wasakentsa. Salesians launched a school and a boarding school to educate Achuar youth.
Today, there are 110 students and 80 interns. There are also 50 Achuar university students who come to study from far away locations. In addition, Salesians have a church that supports 49 Achuar communities in the surrounding area. Nearly 40 percent of the Achuar population is youth who dream of studying and having a better life.
When COVID-19 first struck, parents called their children home from Salesian schools. Educating youth at home proved too difficult for the parents, however, and jeopardized students’ academic performance. At the request of the parents with the support of the Salesian schools and the Wasakentsa mission, all students returned to class, receiving lessons from Monday to Friday, with priority given to the most important subjects.
Even as remote as their communities are, the Achuar received information about COVID-19. Father Agustín Togo, a Salesian working among the Achuar, explained that the NAE (Achuar Nationality of Ecuador) sent people to hold workshops on the preparation of natural medicines. He said, “For the inhabitants of these communities, it’s very important to take advantage of the benefits of plants because they do not have access to Western medicine.”
While supporting the Achuar community, Fr. Togo also focused on sports during the pandemic to keep busy and healthy. He is now writing a booklet on soccer. The booklet highlights the human values found in sports, which are often linked to cultural and Christian values. The booklet will be used to help educate students on the importance of sports education. The brochure will be written in Spanish, but may be translated and adapted for the Achuar language to make it easier to be understood in Amazonian communities.
Ecuador is one of the most inequitable societies in the world, according to UNICEF. The richest 20 percent of the population receives almost 50 percent of the national income, while the poorest 20 percent receives only 5 percent. According to the World Food Program, almost 26 percent of all children under age 5 have stunted growth, increasing to 31 percent in rural areas and 47 percent in Indigenous communities.
Close to 20 percent of Ecuador’s population is people of Indigenous heritage. For poor, rural and Indigenous youth, education provides the best opportunity for finding employment, reducing inequities and breaking the cycle of poverty. Salesian missionaries have been providing education and other social programs for disadvantaged youth across Ecuador for more than 125 years.
Salesian Missions – Ecuador
UNICEF – Ecuador