At 14,000 feet above sea level the light is different. It is brighter, clearer, warmer, more intense yet also more welcoming then the light those of us who live closer to sea level are used to experiencing. The less atmosphere between you and the sun the more direct your connection to the light source, and with thinner air there ends up being less between you and your subject. El Alto is a wonderful place for taking photographs.
But it is not just the lack of atmosphere that shapes these photographs, rather it is the energy supplied by the students, teachers, and parents. From the kids hanging out on a bench between classes, to the instructors interacting with their students, it was abundantly clear that the school was the center of the community.
Community was central to all of the Fe y Alegria schools we visited. Rather then treat education as a way to memorize information or take tests, in the schools we saw Fe y Alegria was carrying out education for the whole student. Whether that student was a five year old learning basic math or a returning adult student learning skills to pursue a better job, the schools were structured in a way to ask, “how can we do what is best for the whole student, how can we best serve the community?” Fe y Alegria schools often take as their mission to serve the poorest parts of society, seeing education as a means to improving life chances, but also recognizing that poverty itself is a serious barrier to education that requires extra steps to overcome. Education as pursuit of social justice.
These photographs capture various moments of education at Fe y Alegria schools. From the formally structured moments like music practice, and instructors working one on one with adult learners, to the informal moments between classes, what I saw, and hope to capture in these photographs was not just the importance of education to these communities but also a way of treating education that isn’t instrumentalist, focused on just getting you to the next step in life, but one that thinks carefully about what it means to help people develop and communities to thrive.
Note: These photographs were taken as part of a University sponsored partnership through the office of Faith and Mission to visit Fe y Alegria schools throughout Bolivia. In the spring of 2019 these schools will be sending a delegation here to Philadelphia and Saint Joseph’s University.
Associate Professor, Communications
Photos pictured are but a sampling of the full display, which can be viewed on the 2nd floor of the Post Learning Commons.
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