Tekove School – training indigenous health care Professionals from and for communities in Bolivia
Francisco Huatiari was chosen by the indigenous Chiquitano community from Mercedes in the municipality of Concepción in Santa Cruz, to attend the Tekove Katu School of Health to train as a nurse. Isidro Machina, of guaraní origin, and Israel Milton, from the Weenhayek community, are also attending the school to study environmental health.
What do these young Bolivian people have in common? All are from indigenous communities in the lowlands and highlands of Bolivia and have been selected by their communities to train at the Tekove Katu School of Health, which was created 39 years ago in the Bolivian Chaco, Santa Cruz.
Over the past three decades, health workers trained at the school have become the true promotors of health in dozens of rural communities in Bolivia.
The school of “full life”
Training at the school is carried out under a modular system, with face-to-face and practical learning. After a year, the indigenous youth then commit to return to their communities to work on issues including illness prevention, the provision of health care, the treatment and consumption of safe water, food management, adequate nutrition, the importance of healthy housing in preventing illness, territorial protection, energy, bilingual education and access to intercultural services.
The foundation of Tekove Katu, which in Guarani means a healthy life or full life, is based on the Declaration of Alma-Ata on Primary Health Care. This declaration also served as a catalyst for strengthening the Guarani community.
“In indigenous culture, health is not the absence of disease. If there is no water, there is no health. If there is no land, there is no health. If there is no access to basic systems and housing, there is no health,”
said Francisco Cosmi, the official responsible for the implementation of the agreement to operate the school by the church and the Bolivian State. This is part of the philosophy of health that exists among indigenous communities.
The Director of the School, Reverend Tarcisio Viavatti, has promoted the school for more than 40 years alongside a team of Italian and Bolivian volunteers. To date, the school has trained more than 1000 young health promoters.
Learning by doing
Thanks to support from the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the school began a specialized training program to improve issues such as access to water and sanitation, and waste management and hygiene within health centers and communities in the Bolivian Chaco.
Under the “Health without borders in the Bolivian Chaco” agreement, PAHO/WHO provided 20,000 for the school to develop a capacity-building project and an initiative to improve access to water, among other things. The Project has three components: Training, research and the provision infrastructure and supplies for under-resourced communities in the Chaco region.