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Alexandra LavrillierSchool on the taiga

Published in 2006Time to read: 0min 57s

Children in the wilds of Siberia no longer have to be separated from their parents to get an education thanks to Alexandra Lavrillier, who has established a mobile school that brings together a modern curriculum and the vanishing Evenk culture.


Children of Evenk nomads in south-eastern Siberia are often wrenched from their families at the age of six and sent to boarding schools. French ethnologist Alexandra Lavrillier, herself married to an Evenk nomad, has set up a travelling school, allowing the Evenk children to have a modern education without leaving their families or sacrificing the ancestral traditions of this nomadic culture.

[The Evenk children] don’t have to choose between the nomadic life and city life.

Lavrillier’s project has been a success. About 150 Evenk children, aged between four and 13, have benefited from an education that combines traditional practices of looking after reindeer herds and hunting sable with their parents as they cross the vast snow forests, with the new technology that is used to educate them. The students are introduced to computers and English in their classes that follow the official Russian school curriculum, a fact that led the Russian authorities to recognize the school and support the cost of some of the equipment and teachers’ salaries. With her Rolex Award funding, Lavrillier hired 15 Evenk university graduates as teachers, and they spend several months of the year moving from one camp to another. The children are able to benefit from both worlds, the modern and the traditional, and, significantly for Lavrillier, their ancestral culture will survive for many generations.

  • -50C

    Extreme winter temperatures in the Siberian taiga

  • 2006

    Year Lavrillier set up the travelling school

  • 30,000

    Evenk people left in Russia


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