Interview with Luisa Pernalete, known educator of Fe y Alegría
Firstly, Congratulation for the prize! How did you feel after this recognition?
If I am honest, at first I felt totally surprised. When the Ambassador called me I couldn´t believe it. I am not "the typical defender of Human Rights", I have never been to a international agency, for example, I have always lived and work in the province, my spaces are micros, everything from the bottom. "Are you sure?" I asked him. I couldn´t believe it! Afterwards I thought about two things. First, instead of asking why me? For I have always done this and I don´t think it is nothing extraordinary, I asked "for what?" And I thought that it will be useful because the voices I work with need to be heard; and, secondly, I thought that it may be important the fact that a qualitatively important sector recognize a work as mine. For this, I received the nomination with joy and humbleness.
Why did you leave the Movement of Popular Education of Fe y Alegría? How was your track at it?
Old story. I was studying in Maracaibo, in the university of Zulia. I felt very dissatisfied seeing so many problems and seeing myself the whole day in the library... Then, a teacher invited me participating in an innovative experience of Fe y Alegría, in a district so marginal it didn´t appear on the maps. It was an experimental project (to train teachers for primary school) and, immediately, I said I would help. It was a 4 hours a week hiring but I felt in love with the program. I was 21 years old then and this year I turn 60. I have never regret of that decision. Since then I have played so many roles: Science teacher, director at that school -which made history in Fe y Alegría due to its creativity-, after a recess I went to Mexico in 1980, then I came back to the regional team of Zulia, where I coordinated, along with Perez Esclarín, a project to professionalize teachers. Afterwards I was appointed to Regional Director of Fe y Alegría Zulia. Later on, in 1998, I was asked to go to Bolívar -across the country- to be Director of this area, post that I left in January of 2009 to be, until now, member of the Training and Research Center Padre Joaquín of Fe y Alegría, where we work for the right to life (don´t forget Venezuela has one of the highest homicide rates in Latin America).
I have actually done everything! And while writing, every Tuesday I am interviewed by the radio of Fe y Alegría, every Monday I write a column for the local newspaper, I give talks all over the country about how to cultivate peace and stop violence... A local TV channel has asked me to participate in their program... I also denounced, encourage... I assure you that I never get bored!
From your point of view, what makes education a fundamental right for everyone?
Well, human rights are interdependent; every single one is needed... But education is seen as a right that helps to enjoy the others because it lets the educated person -understood as trained- have the tools to defender other rights... Training opens a horizon in life.
How would you define Human race? Do you think nowadays life style is leaving behind important values? What values?
I am not the kind of person who thinks "the past was a better time", I believe today we have many opportunities to win cases but in a different way than before... But I also think that today social models are not helping the most vulnerable. I think the world also needs solidarity. We can live con more simplicity; with less things-as indigenous people live, for example, those who don´t mistreated nature, who are happy without accumulating. I think the new technologies of communication are generating dangerous actions... the "first world" has low homicides rate (in Western Europe the rate is two per each hundred thousand inhabitants, while in Venezuela we reach 70/1oo.ooo), but in the first world the suicide rate is very high... There is something wrong with that model... I think that the poor people have a lot to teach us in that sense. And yet, the Gospel talks about the need for being "children" and "poor" to enter the Kingdom of God. I have learnt a lot from the poor people from my country, I think the "dialogue of knowledge" is still a way to achieve today world´s anguish, to match popular knowledge (the intuitive one), with the academic one; allow ourselves be evangelized by poor´ solidarity, allow ourselves be surprised, as children do- learn how to wait as indigenous people do, conceiving nature as a sister nor as a object of domination... I don´t know, but wherever we are going through we are going wrong. However there are seeds to know that this is not the only way of living. In my country I see many "Lotus flowers", mothers, educators, young people who although having broken childhoods, today have time for others. I am continually surprised... We have to reclaim for a pedagogy characterized by an "outstretched hand", also by eyes which can see what at first glance don´t, and also ears which can hear silences... Then, perhaps, we will discover those signs of hope. Without being ingenious but with faith. Small thins help to imagine big things...