DIY: Building a school Recommended read

High above Otavalo, parents of a local school have been meeting every day. Not to protest, party or discuss the local teacher, but to build a new two story building that will one day hold eight new classrooms.

The parents of any school can be influential. They can ask, complain and suggest new ideas to leadership.

But they very rarely, indeed almost never, have the impact that the parents of this indigenous school in Ecuador have.

Deep in the heart of the Andes, where people still speak the ancient language of Quichwa, the parents have taken it upon themselves to build a new two storey classroom with their own hands.

The building skills learnt by the parents are not taught, but merely picked up by generation after generation. Incredibly, no ‘ready made’ materials or constructions are used - just the bare steel cables, gravel, wood and cement. The parents take this and put it altogether making ladders and tools as well.

No brick or ready made things are brought up to the school which sits 9000 ft above sea level. To put that into perspective, that’s twice the height of Britain’s largest mountain, Benn Nevis.

Starting work at seven in the morning and finishing at six when it gets dark, the labourers are paid $8 a day for their efforts, only stopping for lunch of rice and potatoes, with chicken, if they’re lucky.

The whole building project for the two storey building, will last three months and cost just $20,000.

The weather too, is no hindrance to the workers, as they battle through spitting rain and sometimes heavy winds. There is of course no safety equipment, but then again no one to sue for not taking the proper precautions. Many work bare hand and in rubber boots.

 Whilst they work, their own flesh and blood watch proudly with their noses pressed against the glass as they marvel at the sight of their parents building this great thing for them to learn.

When asked whether they feel ‘proud to be building a school classroom for their children to be educated,’ the parents’ response is one of surprise.

‘It’s good to able to do this, but this is just normal work for us. If we weren’t doing this, then we would be working in the fields or in our houses,’ says José Manuel.

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