Jorge Retamal, the Director of CONADI (the National Indigenous Development Corporation) recently visited Mapudungun education programs in the Araucanía and Los Ríos regions. The projects are designed for rural children and involve Mapudungun (the Mapuche language) classes taught by a werken (a Mapuche spokesperson/leader). These particular programs are mandated by law, as any school with more than 50% Indigenous students is supposed to offer native language classes.
The issue of Indigenous languages is a critical one in Chile as data from 2009 indicates that only 14% of Indigenous people in Chile understand their native language. Retamal, acknowledging the importance of the issue said, “As a government, we are determined to advance the recovery of Indigenous languages,” noting that, “a people without language tend to die out and it is the government’s obligation to help preserve and recover them.”
The programs teach students from first to eighth to speak Mapuzungun and involve the use of written and internet materials to support the curriculum. Retamal called the programs exemplary and hopes that aspects of them can be replicated throughout the country.