Going to School in Secoya Territory

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Photo: Alex Goff

By Alex Goff, Field Coordinator It’s 5:00 am in San Pablo, Secoya territory. The sun timidly peaks through the trees. Soon it will bathe the entire forest in a deep yellow light. A thick mist hangs along the riverbank. It will dissipate with the encroaching sun, giving way to the Secoya canoes that transit the Aguarico River in the morning. At Miguel and Eroria Payaguaje’s house, the children are already awake and getting dressed for school. A baby is crying. In the kitchen their mother Eroria has a wood fire going and is preparing breakfast. She heats a kettle of water for coffee that the children drink with lots of sugar. Today’s breakfast, like many days, is a bit of fish with rice. It is now 6:00 am. Eroria rushes around packing math books and notebooks, colored pencils, and pens into the children’s backpacks. She tells Mayeli, who has been distracted and is playing with her cousin— still too young to go to school— to hurry up and eat her breakfast. The baby is still crying.
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Photo: Alex Goff

The school is located in the center of the community of San Pablo. Since Miguel and Eroria live downriver, the children have to travel by canoe. Some days, they get a ride with the professor and his family who travel up from even further downriver. Other days, their father Miguel takes them in his canoe. Today, it seems the professor left early and has already passed them. There is not enough gas for Miguel to take them in his motorized canoe, so the kids must paddle upriver about 40 minutes in a small dugout canoe. Marley helps the smaller kids into the canoe, grabs the paddle and pushes off from the riverbank by their house. Soon they are out of sight, hidden by the trees that block much of the river from view of the house.
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Photo: Alex Goff

As night falls and the sun recedes beyond the horizon, the children do their homework. By candlelight, they help each other with math problems. When they finish their homework it is time for bed. They need their rest: tomorrow is a school day.
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Photo: Alex Goff

 

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