A Visit to 5 of Patagonia’s Most Remote Schoolhouses


At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with journey restrictions in place worldwide, we launched a brand new sequence — The World Through a Lens — wherein photojournalists assist transport you, nearly, to some of our planet’s most lovely and intriguing locations. This week, Andria Hautamaki shares a group of photos from rural Patagonia.


Known for its hovering, glacier-capped Andean peaks and its labyrinth of fjords, Magallanes — in southernmost Patagonia — is Chile’s largest however second least populated area. Daily existence right here requires tenacity and resilience, and group life inside the remoted villages is facilitated partly by an unlikely supply: a community of rural colleges.

Last yr, greater than 275,000 Chilean college students attended one of the nation’s rural colleges. Half of these colleges have been led by a sole trainer who instructed a number of grade ranges inside a single room. Many of the faculties additionally embody gymnasiums, libraries, cafeterias or pc rooms — sources that profit the broader group.

After coordinating with native academic authorities and lecturers, and with the blessing of the scholars’ mother and father and guardians, I spent over a month final yr touring to 5 such colleges.

The areas I visited exemplify the variety of way of life discovered within the distant corners of Chilean Patagonia. Some of the communities depend on ranching or peat extraction, some on fishing, some on tourism. Many of the faculties themselves are off-the-grid, powered by a mix of diesel mills and wind or photo voltaic vitality. When winter temperatures dip under freezing, gravity-fed water programs and water pipes can ice over for days and even weeks. Wood-burning stoves warmth many of the lecture rooms.

Getting to these areas may be an arduous endeavor. Villa Puerto Edén, for instance, a distant hamlet on Wellington Island, was a 27-hour journey from the mainland. Because of the staggered schedule of the ferry, I had to wait ten days to catch the following boat out.

Reaching Pampa Guanaco, a hamlet on the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, additionally required a ferry experience — as well as to a three-hour drive on a gravel street. At the tip of my keep, when it got here time to return to mainland Chile, the port had closed as a result of of excessive winds. I used to be left stranded on a blustery shore, surrounded by white-capped waves. Several hours later, the wind let up simply sufficient for the ferry to resume crossing the Strait of Magellan.

Classroom instruction in these rural communities is supplied from preschool by means of eighth grade. After eighth grade, college students should relocate through the college yr to the closest metropolis, which could possibly be hours, or days away. There, they usually reside with both a guardian or prolonged household, or perhaps a host household, so as to attend highschool.

Cynthia Almonacid Molinet, who’s 36, teaches 11 college students — representing six distinct grade ranges — at a faculty in Cerro Guido.

The college sits on a livestock ranch in view of Torres del Paine National Park and is often surrounded by gauchos on horseback. Classroom instruction is sometimes interrupted by the pattering of hooves from passing flocks of woolly sheep.

One of the many advantages of the rural educational environment “is being able to study the parts of a plant and then being able to go out into the environment to find concrete examples in nature,” Ms. Almonacid said.

But working in small, isolated communities is also uniquely demanding. “Teachers who are in rural schools must enjoy living in extreme areas,” Ms. Almonacid said, adding that the management of multigrade classrooms — with students at a variety of levels and abilities — is a constant struggle.

The coronavirus pandemic has upended educational routines all around the globe, and many schools in Chile have pivoted to remote learning. But rural Chilean schools face particularly difficult challenges now, not the least of which is the lack of consistent internet and telecommunication networks.

“Not all students have access to the internet, a computer or a telephone,” Ms. Almonacid said. “And parents, due to limited schooling, find it difficult to help their children with their homework.”

Enrollment in schools here fluctuates from year to year — as students graduate, or as families come or go. But rural schools continue to serve aspiring marine biologists, artisan boat builders, bilingual tour guides and veterinarians. And despite the difficulties introduced by the coronavirus pandemic, these students’ professional dreams will continue to be kindled by daily contact with the natural world, coupled with the freedom to embrace curiosity and creative problem-solving.



Source link Nytimes.com

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