Morales funds three indigenous universities in Bolivia

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LA PAZ, Bolivia - While he was busy preparing for the national referendum vote, as well as negotiating energy accords and dealing with strikes, Bolivian President Evo Morales issued Supreme Decree 29664 Aug. 2, authorizing the creation of three indigenous universities where the courses would be taught in Aymara, Quechua and Guarani - the country;s three most widely spoken Native languages.

The three new educational institutions will be located in the regions of La Paz, Cochabamba and Chuquisaca. Funding for the universities will come from monies collected through the Direct Hydrocarbon Tax, which will go to the Indigenous Fund that as of August held $366 million Bolivianos (approximately $52 million U.S.). Fifteen percent of the Indigenous Fund will go directly to the new universities.

''For what is the indigenous university?'' Morales asked at the Aug. 2 press conference at the Warisata Normal School, the first indigenous school in Bolivia. ''It is to decolonize Bolivia. ... In this university there will be classes in Aymara, and Spanish and English will just be other courses.''

The Warisata School was founded in 1931 in Warisata, a town in the province of Omasuyos in the La Paz region. The Omasuyos Province was home to the Achacachi people, who led an indigenous uprising against the ruling elites of Bolivia at that time.

''From this struggle emerged Avelino Sinani, who created this indigenous school on Aug. 2, 1931,'' the president recounted to a crowd of indigenous and other rural people, local mayors and other directors of civic organizations of the region along with Minister of Education Magdalena Cajias and Foreign Relations Minister David Choquehuanca.

In his speech, Morales also noted that the Quechua university to be located in the town of Chimore in the Cochabamba region would be built on lands that had been occupied by a U.S. military base up until 2005, and had since been recovered and set aside for the educational center.

Following the president on the dais was Cajias, who said the teaching of university courses in Native languages was an important step forward for the country.

''If we think that the first university in Bolivia was built 300 years ago, we are saying that after so much time we are creating three indigenous universities that are going to finally recover, through education, that profound sense of our society and of who we are ourselves.''

Bolivian history will be one of the subjects taught in all of the universities, Morales added, as well as courses in economics, social sciences and environmental science, along with arts and sports programs.

The institution slated for the Warisata site in La Paz will be Aymara University, which is also to be known as Tupac Katari University, after the Aymara rebel leader who raised an army of 40,000 to fight against Spanish colonials in 1781. Career tracks at this school will include those in High Plains agronomy, food and textile industries, veterinary medicine and animal husbandry.

Quechua University will be located in the Cochabamba region on the former U.S. Army installation in Chimore and will also be referred to as Casimiro Huanca, named for a coca grower who was killed in a peaceful demonstration in 2001 by a Bolivian military squad that had been funded by the U.S. This university will concentrate on careers in the food industry, forestry and fishery cultivation.

The other academic center was named the Bolivian Guarani and People of the Lowlands University and will be located in the town of Curuyuqui in the Chuquisaca region. The Guarani language institution will feature areas of concentration in hydrocarbons, fishery cultivation, veterinary medicine and animal husbandry.