Konani, Bolivia


Photographer: Mateo Caballero

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

Luís Alberto Usnayo, 30, teaches mathematics at a public school in Konani, a small town 4,000 metres above sea level in the Bolivian highlands where most people are poor farmers. Almost all of Luís Alberto’s students have to walk several kilometres to and from school. After school, many of them have to help their families, taking care of animals or looking after crops. At school, their main interests are the free breakfast provided by the government and football with their classmates. Getting them interested in maths has always been hard. But the one thing that has worked for Luís Alberto is chess. As a teenager, he had found consolation in the game after his father, a mine worker, died aged just 37. Then, in the years that followed, it opened for him the doors of abstract reasoning and mathematics. It took him a while to find ways to share his love of the game with his students. But gradually he succeeded. Now, Luís Alberto uses chess to introduce ideas such as strategy, timing and opportunity which can then be applied in other subjects such as history and geography. Today, some of his students are taking part in regional chess tournaments. Luis Alberto’s next goal is to have them competing in Bolivia’s national championships.