Paulino Pérez Vera

Escuela Básica Multigrado de Excelencia Repollal, Guaitecas, Aysén Province, Chile

Paulino  Pérez Vera

Paulino lives on an island 14 hours away from the nearest port, in the Guaitecas archipelago of the Chilean Patagonia. It is an isolated place where it rains 300 days a year, temperatures are extreme and there are no traffic lights nor telephone signal. During breeding season, Blue and Humpback whales come across the island in search of food and protection for their babies.

Faced with issues such as lack of resources, low parental commitment, low enrolment rate, displacement and the need to generate environmental awareness, the Mayor of the commune asked Paulino to take charge of the Repollal School, a poorly reputed institution located in the most remote area of the island.
Paulino Pérez Vera arrived at his remote rural school in 2013 and not only did it have almost no facilities, but no students either as none could be bothered to attend. So he travelled from door to door to speak with the children and their parents in order to convince them that together they could transform the island.

Working with scientists studying marine ecosystems, the professor and his students worked on a first cycle of whale conservation at the northern gateway of Patagonia where the school is located. They worked with the scientists on the identification of whales, world routes, permanent hazards and population growth. Paulino and his students also participated in a scientific student camp in the Melimoyu reserve for an annual research competition where they studied the freshwater environment of the Aysén region, exploring the main sources of these resources, their threats and necessary actions for their conservation.

Such work helped transform his students into agents of change, giving them tools that allow them to develop real-life solutions that transcend the local and respond to problems that have a global meaning. With a renewed appetite for education, his students have gone on to win first places in Spelling Bee contests and music competitions such as the La Voz Infantil Festival. The school won first place in the Educational Innovation contest of the Association of Municipalities of Chile (AMUCH) among more than 200 educational projects from all regions of the country.

Paulino also won first place in the “50 ideas for my region” contest of Universidad Tecnológica de Chile (INACAP), investing the prize money in creating a web site where he describes the school's experience and asserts the value of rural education, hoping to generate a network of rural schools in Chile. Thanks to Paulino’s ability to inspire his students and gain the support of parents and local businesses, his once deserted school is now a community hub and cultural meeting point, hosting such diverse activities as gastronomic shows, sports championships, folk clubs and other tournaments in which people from all over the island participate.

Pérez Vera knows that an educated, healthy and happy child is the product of an educated, healthy and happy community. His efforts have led him to achieve an Environmental Seal for his school and has been recognized by the Ministry of Education for his Academic Excellence.