Over coffee and pan dulce we had another conversation about education. Blanca, Cecilia and I had gone to Corozal (a canton of Berlin about 10 miles away – an hour + truck ride). The purpose of the meeting was to plan the two days that their partner churches’ delegation would be in the community. It was a great meeting. The community is waiting with anticipation!
Part of the conversation we had with them was getting some basic information about the community. And of course, we always ask about the schools. This past year, Corozal had 140+ students in kindergarten through 5th grade. They have 3 teachers. Do the math!!! And then thank your lucky stars that you CAN do the math thanks to the wonderful education you received!
The school in Corozal only goes to 5th grade. Then that is it for the children. There are 3 students attending 6th grade in a far away community called Talpetates. There is one student in 7th grade here in Berlin. These four are lucky in that they have family they can stay with while they go to school. They would not logistically be able to go otherwise. It is a four hour walk to the nearest school that has 6th grade and above. There just are no closer schools. What a travesty.
The community had made a solicitude to the Ministry of Education but have had no response.
If anyone from the Ministry of Education is out there reading this… my prayer is that MinEd will one day recognize the needs in the rural communities. I personally know of 8 communities that have been soliciting the ministry for either an extra teacher or increased grade levels. NONE have been given positive responses. And I would bet my left arm that for the 6 schools that I personally know about - there are 100 more just like it. And I would bet that is a conservative number.
I just don’t understand it. Complain all you want about our (in the States) educational system … but think back or look now at your own children – they are getting a basically free education – and a GOOD one at that – up to 12th grade. Yes there are expenses – but if you truly have no money for school – there are programs to help families cover the expenses.
Here … kids are lucky to get to 5th grade. The have to walk to attend the higher grades and that walk can be anywhere from 45 minutes to over 4 hours each way on lonely dirt roads or paths … 4 months of heavy sun. 6 months of daily rain. (2 months of summer vacation).
And the ministry doesn’t seem to care. I’m sure that is not true. I hope it is not true.
They say there are no resources to pay these teachers or increase grade levels at schools. So … that brings us to the government itself. I always tell my kids – and we tell the communities – prioritize the most crucial of needs. That is what you try to resolve first. The most crucial of needs.
To me – education should be number one. Or at least in the top three - employment, food/water (but the first would take care of this … if people had jobs they could feed their families) - and education would be to me – the no brainer list to address.
My two cents.