Zur deutschen Fassung dieses Berichts.
As I finally saw a village after a day’s walk through the jungle and several river crossings, I was relieved. When I saw that a village of 300 inhabitants, living so remotely, had an active school, my educated heart was overcome with joy.
But before education, there has to be some patriotism, apparently.
Lined up like in the military, the students, all belonging to the Mojeño tribe/nation, warbled the anthem of the Plurinational Republic of Bolivia before marching into their classrooms in an equally military order. Like all buildings in Buen Pastor, the school building was kept rather simple.
To my great surprise, there was a computer room, though, but it had been mothballed for five months. The power supply from the solar panels no longer worked.
There was an engineering student in our group, who checked that both the solar cells and the batteries were okay. Only a small intermediate part needed to be replaced. However, he did not have that part with him, and he would not come back for a few months. So, there would be another semester without electricity.
At least the teachers don’t have to worry about the children being distracted by their mobile phones.
Speaking of the teachers: They have to walk through the jungle or, in the rainy season, wade through the mud for 6 to 8 hours until they get to school. All four teachers working there are from other parts of the country, but between the long holidays they have to live in the village without showers, without toilets, without clean water (they drink from the river or rainwater during the rainy season) and now without electricity, all of this for several months in a row. They don’t receive newspapers, and nobody visits them because everybody is afraid of snakes and piranhas. The journey home for the weekend is not worth it because of the long walk. There is no privacy, because everyone lives in open huts around a clearing cut out of the jungle. The doctor comes once a month. After a few weeks, you really can’t stand fish and rice anymore, but there is nothing else to eat. I didn’t even want to ask about the salary.
During the break, which was of course used for football, I snuck into one of the classrooms to take a look at the history and social studies books. And what am I seeing there, in the middle of the jungle of South America?
Of the ten people depicted, 30% are from German history. Plus Vichy-Pétain. The Bolivian history book does not have a single Bolivian or South American on the cover. Where is Bolívar?? No idea why Hindenburg was more important. Well, at least Garibaldi fought in South America, and Napoleon, through his war against Spain, indirectly gave South American freedom fighters the freedom to go on with their revolutions.
On the other hand, as a history nerd from Germany, it fills me with joy that even small children in jungle settlements without electricity or roads know about the Weimar Republic. I am excited to read about Federico Ebert, Adolfo Hitler and Pablo von Hindenburg.
Of course, I don’t expect a textbook for the third year of secondary school, especially on a distant continent, to provide explanations on the level of the thousand-page tomes I usually devour. But
- was the Weimar Republic really a “república socialista”?
- if one writes that Adolfo Hitler was appointed Führer by referendum, should one not mention that on 19 August 1934, the German Reich was already a dictatorship and the referendum was by no means free or fair?
- referring to the Volksgerichtshof as “tribunales del pueblo” without any further explanation seems to downplay that instrument of oppression.
- it’s not entirely true that the Nazis introduced a system of social security.
- in light of all of that, it doesn’t really matter that the Gestapo and the SS were not the same.
But this book at least mentions racism, nationalism, anti-Semitism and the persecution of Jews. Another textbook, which I find in the bookcase, deals with the history of the Third Reich without mentioning the Holocaust even once, although Bolivia received relatively many Jewish refugees.
Let’s see how things evolved in this distant Germany.
So, Germany becomes a “global power”, does not pay its foreign debts and puts the unemployed into the military. Hitler and Mussolini ally against the communists and help their friend Franco.
And then – poof, poof – in 1949 “Alemania Democrática” suddenly appears. Grotewohl and Pieck establish the “people’s democracy”, experience “some difficulties” in 1953 and 1961-62, but “things went ahead”. In 1955, the Western powers recognize the Federal Republic of Germany, the heads of government are called Heuss, Lübke, Erhard, Kiesinger, Brandt. If you confuse chancellor and president here, you won’t have any points deducted. On 9 November 1989, the wall is torn down (which wall? by whom? why?).
Something beautiful happens, because the fall of communism will allow the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany to unite and to “enter an era of freedom”. As if both countries had previously been unfree. Gratitude is expressed to Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl, but it remains unclear of which Germany Kohl was chancellor.
No wonder that the image of Germany taught in Bolivian schools sometimes remains diffuse.
But seriously: There are pupils and adults in Germany who do not know or understand or want to know/understand any of this any better. And in my 13 school years in Germany, I never heard anything about Bolivia. Also, I doubt any of my teachers would have swum through a river with anacondas and crocodiles to get to school.