It occurs to me that I have not given any sort of foundational description of my environs here. Given that I had no idea what to expect upon arrival, none of you probably have much of an idea where I am or what I am doing either. Entonces, here goes:
I am living for three months at the Escuela Agricola de San Francisco de Assis near the town of Cerrito in the Chaco of Paraguay. The school was started over 20 years ago by a brotherhood of monks called La Salle. 4 years ago, it was purchased by [I think, though possibly donated to] the Fundacion Paraguaya, a local non-profit, and they are in the process of developing it as a model of self-sustaining secondary education.
The functional model, and therefore the campus, comprises two main areas; academic instruction [classe] and field training [campo]. Through the year, the students alternate weeks between the two areas, with each of three courses or grade level being divided into two sections, one of which is in classe and one in campo during any given week. We have about 150 students; 115 varones and 35 mujeres, so class sizes are roughly comparable to those in the states.
In classe, students [theoretically] receive instruction in: Natural Science, Social Science, Castellano, Guarani, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Economics, Business Management, Mechanics and Equipment, Large and Small Animal Husbandry, Horticulture, Fruiticulture, Agriculture, EcoTourism, English, and Life Skills. [Definitely more on this later…]
In campo, they are trained in: Animal Husbandry [Tambo: milk cows, meat cows, pigs, goats, egg chickens, meat chickens, and rabbits] Agriculture [Chakra: mandioca, papaya, pineapple, bananas, Cameroon grass, beans, etc.] Horticulture [Huerta: vegetable and fruit production] and Service Industries [Servicios: food service, hotel management, fishery, apiary, maintenance, etc.]
The students are here for three years. The first year they spend a month at a time [which ends up being 2 weeks due to the rotation with classes] in each campo area. Second-years work in each area for two months at a time and help supervise and train the first years. For the third year, each student chooses one of the four campo areas to focus on and works there as a coordinator/assistant to the instructor/administrator for the entire year, after which the assumption is that they are prepared to either pursue university studies [which a few do] or work in one of the areas they have been trained in.
EASF is a boarding school, so there are dormitories for the boys and for the girls [the school will graduate its first girls this year], a church, a school building, a building with administrative offices and little apartments for the teachers, a kitchen and two dining halls [one for the students and one for guests of the hotel] in addition to the campo out buildings [wood shop, tool sheds, greenhouses, barns etc.] and the hotel [one main building and several small chalets; I live in one of these].
It’s lovely. Old, and very different from any school I’ve seen in the states, but full of character…and potential. I’m still working on pictures, but that should give you at least some idea.