Appreciating the privilege of education


Alyssa Smith

Rebekka Kalmbach with one of her students in Tanzania.

Alyssa Smith, Staff Writer

Education is a privilege. It is. But for each culture, it means something different.
Last summer I had the opportunity to travel to Peru and experience Peruvian culture and renowned tourist sites like Machu Pichu. I was able to see and experience a tremendous amount of their culture and history in a short two weeks. I went to markets, museums, and while in Lima, I spent most of my time in Kennedy Park, which is a city park dedicated to President John F. Kennedy and filled with hundreds of cats that would lay everywhere and anywhere.
Besides the cat park, Machu Pichu was one of my favorite sites. However, while I was there, my group and I went to Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru, where we helped a small community. My favorite experiences weren’t trying the different food or seeing all the tourist sites, it was interacting with the people and giving back to that community.
The service project in Ollantaytambo is part of the Sacred Valley Project. Its purpose is to provide access to education for young women 15 to 18 years old, who live in remote regions of the Sacred Valley. The Sacred Valley Project provides food, boarding, tutoring and transportation in a safe and nurturing environment for the female students.
My group and I were there to help build a greenhouse so that the dormitory where the girls stayed most of the year could grow produce and better support itself. We built adobe bricks out of mud, sand and straw that takes weeks to dry, and we also dug a pit so that the greenhouse could have a firm foundation. Even though we did not physically build the greenhouse, we made over 100 adobe bricks that would eventually be used to build it.
While I was there, I was able to talk with a local named Carlos who frequently works for the dormitory and is their ‘handyman’. Carlos was a kind, friendly person who was forgiving of my broken Spanish, and we had conversations about college and families. He told us how to make the bricks and the process of sorting the dirt and rocks.
I also talked with some of the students, and I learned that some of the girls had to travel 14 hours alone by foot from their home just to come to the dormitory. This means that it is too far for them to go home for the weekend.
Some of the female students’ families sell their livestock to pay for their schooling, and that is everything they have. These families sacrifice everything for their daughters to receive an education, and these girls take full advantage of that privilege that their families provide.
Some of the learners who recently graduated are now going to college or a university. When asked what she was going to do after finishing school, one girl replied that she was going back to her home village to help her community and give back to her family for the sacrifices that they have made.
Rebekka Kalmbach, a social science student here at LCSC, has a similar story, but on a different continent. She went to Tanzania and had many stops along the way, but her favorite was working with third and fifth-grade students as a ‘teacher’s assistant’. However, she was given full reign of the class because no certifications were needed to teach in a private school. Kalmbach taught Math, Natural Sciences, English, and PE which had never been offered before.
Kalmbach said, “For locals, education is a privilege. Only more affluent families, who didn´t need their children to work at home or the market, could afford to send their children there. Most of the students couldn´t read or write fluently.
Children only learned enough reading and writing to be decent enough in a market setting so as to not get cheated on prices.
Tanzanian families put family above everything else, so if a family member becomes sick and they did not have the money to care for them, then they simply pull their child out of school. Most of the time, the child never has a chance to return.
Although these are two very different cultures that are separated by thousands of miles, they both have one thing in common. Both the family and the child in school make unbelievable sacrifices to receive an education. That is not typically the case in the United States.
Here we are lucky enough to have public schools and transportation that allow children to go to school every day. We have the privilege of free education, but there are students who are wasting that opportunity. There are students in high school who slough off assignments, are always late or don’t even show up to class.
There are college students who are paying thousands of dollars to attend college to receive a higher education, and they may not show up to classes. They just decide not to go even though they are paying for every minute of their instruction.
The Peruvian and Tanzanian students and learners from around the globe understand the privilege and honor of a formal eduction. Meanwhile, some students in the U.S. squander this opportunity Perhaps if students stepped out of their comfort zones and explored other cultures’ experiences with education, they would take their own learning for granted less and maximize their potential.
To learn more about the Sacred Valley Project, check out or visit their Facebook page.