Interview to Brother Andres Miranda, Principal of the Abya - Yala Intercultural High School, Lago Agrio.
The Abya Yala high school is located on the outskirts of Nueva Loja, province of Sucumbios. This educational center hosts 165 students from the Kichwa, Shuar, Cofan, Secoya and Siona communities.
Abya Yala is a dream come true for the San Miguel church that for over 30 years sought financing so boys, girls and teenagers from various indigenous communities could access quality education.
What motivated you to make an intercultural high school a reality?
Children that made it to seventh grade in their small communities were unable to continue their studies. Middle school and high school were not an option. That is when this project was first conceived.
The institution was created in 2005 specifically for the children of the indigenous nationalities in Sucumbios, but now there is a new indigenous nationality coming in, the Awa, native to the south of Colombia, on the north border with Esmeraldas. The Awa population has grown quite a bit in this province; many of them were displaced by the Colombian armed conflict. Although the peace agreement in Colombia has taken strides in the right direction, there were people displaced by other armed groups. We have received undocumented migrants. There we are experiencing this interculturally enriching process.
How did you secure financing for the educational center?
The scope of this project is quite broad, as it is not only an educational center, but a home for youth where we accommodate boys and girls from different nationalities from the Sucumbios province that live in very remote locations.
OCP undertook to build the facilities in 2004 —a wonderful gift for the indigenous population that, at the time of this historic event, had no access to the educational system. After construction, OCP has continued to contribute, be it financially or by providing various teaching materials.
Help from the private sector is essential, as it helps to enrich these boys’ and girls’ future opportunities and the likelihood of broadening the horizon of both the boys and girls here with us and their ancestral people. From this perspective, OCP’s contribution has been very valuable.
The private sector, insofar as it assumes its social responsibilities, is in a position to make essential, enriching contributions, basic for society. As long as there is awareness regarding the goings on within the social system’s structure, the private sector can make key contributions.
How much has the student body grown?
There are two parts to the educational center, the academic and training part and the student residences.
Around 800 students have come through this high school. In 2005, 25 students began their studies here and then moved on to baccalaureate courses. Most of the boys and girls are staying in the home for youth. At the moment, of the 165 students enrolled, 110 are living in the student residences.