The last word

Findings

While I wish to avoid oversimplifying my research conclusions, I would like to briefly discuss some overarching themes in my analysis. I found a consensus in Cuje that education is important for many reasons, most centrally as a means of developing the community. I also found that the everyday realities in Cuje, particularly the widespread malnourishment and child labor that result from economic hardship, as well as the high cost of school supplies, force community members to face difficult decisions and often make great sacrifices in pursuing a formal education. A major characteristic that shapes the community’s education lies in the economic structure of the community. Community members overwhelming find opportunities for work in labor intensive, agricultural jobs that do not incorporate many skills gained from formal education. Some community members predict that the community can foster development through technical education that enhances skills to manage agriculture, while others doubt that the community will develop through agriculture.

As I write this blogpost, one interview that resonated deeply with me comes to mind. On that day, thick, waxy leaves clustered in the dry air, and fine particles of dust drifted downwards to settle after our truck’s arrival. When I asked our respondent, a respected leader in the community, about the type of education that would most benefit the community, he surprised me by emphasizing his understanding that new generations in Cuje must have the opportunity to use computers. He expressed concern  that a growing gap in technological skills between children who have access to computers and children in Cuje without access to computers would limit work opportunities for future generations of community members. His insights revealed an educational barrier that I had both regarded as obvious —– that a community in the mountains and with no electricity had no computers—and utterly failed to appreciate for its implications to the community’s education, work and economy. In order to partner with communities towards sustainable solutions, researchers must actively work to understand the community’s shared values and insights.

Suggestions for future research

MANOS researchers can find a detailed version of my analysis on the MANOS wiki. The team’s research wikipedia seeks to preserve past research and researcher experiences in order to build upon them, and sustainably grow the project’s informed understanding. In future work, I believe researchers could find excellent education related research material in expanding our understanding of the community’s technical schools, economic cooperatives, and local knowledge of medicine and health. I also believe that this research project reveals a nuanced but often shared understanding within the community of the importance and difficulties of obtaining an education, and the opportunity to develop a project that addresses these shared understandings.