Indigenous Universities in Bolivia are example of decolonizing education in action


Morales Presents Degrees to First Graduates of Bolivia's Indigenous Universities 

Juan Karita/APEvo Morales

Rick Kearns 8/23/14

Bolivian President Evo Morales handed out degrees to the first graduates of the country's three indigenous universities recently at their joint graduation ceremony, asserting that they would fight colonialism as well as honor the memories of Indigenous Bolivian heroes.

On August 2nd, as part of the celebration of Community Agrarian Revolution Day in the city of Cochabamba, Morales also gave the keynote address to the 118 indigenous students who were receiving their degrees and certificates from either Tupac Katari Aymara University, Apiaguaiki Tupa Guarani University, or Casimiro Huanca Quechua University.

In his speech, Morales, who is Aymara, asserted that the creation of the universities - by his administration - served as a just homage to the indigenous leaders who died fighting against colonialist regimes of the distant and recent past.

"Our universities have confronted internal and external colonialism...these universities pay just homage to the generations of indigenous leaders that fought hard against neoliberal and neocolonial policies," Morales stated.

The universities were named after indigenous heroes from the three largest indigenous communities in the country: Tupac Katari, also known as Julian Apaza, was an Aymara leader who fought against the Spanish during the colonial era; Apiaguaiki Tupa was a Guarani warrior who battled the colonial Bolivian authorities; and Casimiro Huanca was a Quechua activist who "fought a good fight against neoliberal and neocolonial politics" in 2001.

Morales also pointed to how indigenous students were able to dress in their traditional attire while at the three universities, as opposed to the discrimination they faced at other public institutions of higher learning.

"With joy we now see that the children of the countryside can study while wearing their ponchos, polleras (traditional skirts) and abarcas (sandals), that is to say, their traditional clothing," Morales said, adding that two years ago an indigenous university student in the city of Cochabamba had been the victim of racism for wearing a pollera.

The Aymara president urged the new graduates to leave "a good footprint" for other indigenous students to follow by showing that they were well prepared for their jobs, loved by their communities and that they demonstrated that the Unibol indigenous system provided a good education for its students.