Juan Alfonso Fuentes | Table 2 - Educational Session, CUMIPAZ 2017

Juan Alfonso Fuentes | Table 2 - Educational Session, CUMIPAZ 2017

Thank you very much, coordinator, fellow Table companions. Special greetings to each and everyone of you, thank you for your presence. I am very happy to be here; and tell you that I modified the initial presentation I had due to the dynamics and richness of expositions and exchanges we have had in this opportunity.

The activity of today will have three parts. In the first part we will let you know what we dedicate ourselves to and why are we compromised, more each time, with the peace issue; later some proposals, outline two or three proposals; and finally I want to share (when there is 5 minutes left) a video where we see no only integral education but also inclusive, further away from the walls of the university, with the farmers and society in general.

We all agree that peace has to be worked for, but unfortunately in Latin America, even though dictatorship has concluded, there is still a type of peace -in some people- that the concept has to be changed.

We do not want cemetery peace at the expense of life of people, their goods, and of Mother Earth. We want an integral peace and a peace that exceeds what the poet Alfonso Orantes used to say about Guatemala: those who advocate for peace, justice, and human rights have three ways left: enclosure, exile, or burial.

There are people who continue, and who defend -and we defend- Mother Earth are victims of criminalization, they are victims of continuous assaults by people who want monoculture, who want to change traditions and wants -let us say- divert rivers; and, in fact, those are attacks that have to be changed. So we do not want that type of peace. We want an integral peace.

I would like to tell you that a server of yours, in Guatemala, in 1947… there were only two expansions of the university, Guatemala and Quetzaltenango; later, in '69, a program of which I am part of, began and you will see why I am so excited about this topic. In the Dental Faculty, which is the one that could have had the most excuses to go to the rural area to serve communities, was the first one that came out; and currently, of 12 students who began one career, now there are more than 2500 students per year, of 25 different careers.

I was object of that training; and where I now work, CSUCA, first organism of integration in Latin America, decided in 1962 that general studies of integration be done. The first two common years at all universities, because that would allow a student for that to be validated in each of the universities and countries members of the association. But in Odontology we began to practice from the third year which I believe is inclusive, it is called: “The creation of supervised professional practice”, currently called coaching, is to accompany people while they learn, demonstrating the skills and competences they have acquired.

Well from the third year they took us -the theoretical and practical part- what little we knew how to do: teach how to brush teeth, the importance of taking care of the mouth…; but since the first year we were accompanied by our professors to nearby rural areas. As time passed, practice increased, and we already knew how to more things and with longer duration; but the last year, supervised professional practice: an entire year in the rural area.

I did not miss them, then, that when I had the opportunity of serving as dean we came to have more clinics in the rural area than the Ministry of Public Health and the Social Security combined; that is to say high quality clinics, clinics where the student could put his knowledge to practice.

Then, the first topic I would like to address, is that in order to have an integral formation one has to get out of mono disciplines, the multidisciplinary approach has to be worked with; it is in the application of the different disciplines where it is demonstrated if there is competence or not.

Letamendi already said it: «The doctor who only knows about medicine, does not even know about medicine». Medicine is to be applied to people, people who are sick, that have their problems, etc, etc; and so this is part of our activity.

The place where I currently work at, the Higher University Council, has seven systems and seven  programs: first program it has in system brings together the 23 vice-rectors in charge of teaching, they get together at least two times a year; then there is a research and study postgraduate system, where the 23 vice-rectors also come together at least two times a year; such as those with student lifestyle, university extension, and there are seven systems that are described in a document (that is why I will not describe it).

But there the inclusiveness begins. Usually teaching has nothing to do with the expansion nor the research; and the research and expansion have been ornamental tasks in many cases to appear in indexed journals, but nothing to do with returning that to the community; and that has to be corrected.

But in this case, what is the first message to the Activists for Peace who want to make a proposal? You can find and join in one place with the 23 vice-rectors of the corresponding area, to present an initiative and work altogether. I loved the music topic, well there is a - in the student life system there is, every two years, an art and culture festival where 2500 students participate, each with their artistic and cultural expressions.

But we also have 7 programs: a Politics, Management, and University Transformation program. We have gone to making innovations but different innovations, not based in the contents and objectives any more, rather based in  competences, in what the student knows how to do and must know to solve. Then that is what we are working in a very intense manner, we have a pretty broad plan. (el enlace del documento completo, que es de 70 páginas, lo tienen ustedes disponible para que lo puedan consultar)

The substantive functions of the university have to be reevaluated as well. Making extension by extension is not justified, in a charitable way and only volunteering, it has to be a compromise a lot more serious and an integral application.

Research is the basis for planning teaching and is also the basis for evaluating how far we have advanced in teaching and learning and in university extension.

Here you have other documents you can take, you will be interested, by what our colleague Florinda manifested the first day. There is a “Manual of medicinal plants” made at the University of San Carlos, and now we are on a Central American one with more than 120 plants that the indigenous peoples use and its value was demonstrated pharmacologically, it is published, and now it is returning to the communities so the creation of school gardens be promoted with medicinal and nutritional plants; because that is oral tradition and it is getting lost, unfortunately.

I will speak in a video of a program I followed for more than 25 years (in the 90s); but the advantage it has is that it is a program that was worked with famers of the five poorest villages of Chiquimula; and those people, following them for 25 years with an integral university program, now the majority of kids you will see there are professionals; they were people who had many problems, they managed to increase their agricultural production, diversify their consumption, and ask for surpluses to dedicate them to education, improve their housing, etc.

As I was saying, investigations in medicinal plants and high nutritional value plants have not been foreign to our drive, and we want to return that which came out of the community; because many times the student prescribes of the multinational medicine, which are those that sponsor departures to congresses and trips; and in reality the patient receives the prescription but it does not exist in the local pharmacy or he does not have the money to buy it, so it is important that whatever they have at hand they recognize and know how to use, use it the right way, already with the entire scientific and technological support.

How to produce a better small field: It was split in three parts, and what they previously cultivated in the entire field now it is more than doubled in the third part; but in the other third part: vegetables and legumes; and in the other third part: animal protein.

Here is the medicinal plant book of Dr. Caceres. They are 120 plants which were studied with all rigour, 25 years of research. Take a look at what disintegration is, how a biological chemistry study is, the doctor arrives, the medical student and prescribes the multinational medicines; that is to say, we had to make a special effort so doctors had training in alternative medicine, and it was achieved for the health minister to admit this vademecum to treat it as alternative treatment in health centers where there are no more possibilities.

Central America, we have a great deal of youth and we have some places, in rural areas, 60% of the population that neither can they study nor find jobs, some call them the ** (neither studying nor working); and this is a very serious problem, because that is why many people migrate to Mexico and the United States. Now it is believed that with repression and walls that is going to be stopped. It is a very serious social issue and it is a problem solved based on education. Universities have to reach out furthest to people that do not have access to education and that is going to be one of my proposals at the end.


  1. Central American universities, we already have five tv channels and about fifteen college radios that are working and sometimes work 24 hours a day, but their signal and power is not sufficiently powerful as for it to reach the innermost place of our country.

  2. They have already joined a network called “Communicate”, they already have the satellite signal that will allow to cover with educational and cultural programs: tolerance, culture of peace, education, health, environment, human rights; strengthen what our promoters do, our teachers throughout the country whilst creating a cultural conscience.

  3. I am the answer that, according to the Sustainable Development Goals, education is not only the 4th Goal, quality and inclusive education; no. Based in Goal 17, which is to make strategic alliances and that countries which have committed to move forward in that, that is where education will allow cultural and educational changes.

  4. Let us not think that there will be clean water if the community does not change from - a cultural and educational change. It is not about having the biggest water purifying plants if we continue contaminating. There will be no conservation of terrestrial, aquatic, and subaquatic systems if there is no cultural change. There will be no health is we do not have that change. So that education penetrates and has the responsibility in all human areas.

Now we can continue with the video, a video that will show you the following (I am telling you), I followed this program for 25 years, in the 90s already 27 years ago; you will see how time goes by. We can already show it, my computer friend, we can play the video; I will not speak, it is not a professional video.


In the last two minutes that I have left I will finish with the following:

         5. We raised this because there is no better way to make an comprehensive training than solving problems. It is not about repeating anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, no! Well, you either know how to apply anesthesia or know how to use the right analgesic, yes or no, working all in all. There is no college professor, the person who was there had not even studied… If not, says: “Well, we teach engineers,  let us see in five years the results, and maybe some of them will work”, no! That is done during the training process; and that is the best way the university has to prove if what it is teaching in its classes is the most relevant, appropriate, and most effective for the country.

So, I leave experience there (to be respectful with the time). We are at your service. We will distribute all of the documents, everything is there; but let me tell you, I like that very much because it identifies the opportunity I had of being trained in the rural area, the opportunity I had of knowing the medicinal plants. I have some articles published in foreign journals as well. But that is not the important thing, the important part is the application and return to the communities.

Thank you very much.