in our section of the city, an area called cienfuegos, there are thousands of children who have never studied. some of it is parental irresponsibility, some of it is that teenagers drop out - but mostly, there just isn't enough space in the schools for the population.
as it stands, the classroom limit is 45 in elementary school and 60 in high school. because there are so few classrooms, classes are divided into three shifts - morning, 8-12:30; afternoon, 2-6 and evening 6:30-10. this scheduling is fairly common throughout latin america, but i'd bet that no other system allows for the amount of off days that are actually sanctioned here. teachers want a meeting? no school. the teachers savings and loan has a meeting? no school. teachers union has a meeting? no school. fancy government parade? no school. raining? no school. too hot? no school.
the new president made a lot of fancy promises - as politicians do - to change the school system. his first line of business was dedicating 4% of the GDP to education. check. with some of that money, he instated (through the board of ed.) budgets for schools to actually purchase the supplies they need like chalk and toilet paper. he ran into a fairly significant problem with teacher salaries - but for now, it's been taken care of.
but, his biggest promise was to construct school structures in the highest-populated areas to reduce the amount of children in the street. and to sweeten up that deal for working parents, he added that all schools would slowly phase into all-day schools. it seemed impossible. educators were skeptical - and they still are. where would the money come from to feed these kids? what about all of the extra materials they would need to enhance classes?
i was, and still am, a skeptic. for the past few months, the board of ed. has been fighting - literally - to get a school into our school's community. and while most people think we're nuts, we are some of the biggest supporters of the school. i'll spare you the (boring) details of a one-legged baseball coach asking for millions of pesos in recompense while he's been squatting on government land for years, collecting money from unsuspecting kids and their parents. (that'll be a post for another day).
after rumors and threats to take the project to another neighborhood, the bulldozers showed up on monday morning and started digging. it seems like we'll actually have a new neighbor come august. a new neighbor of the best and most hopeful kind - a school that will sit 800+ students from 8am-4pm. parents who work will no longer have to worry about what to do with their kids during work hours. teachers will be better compensated for their labors. and the community will grow and flourish.
because with education, everything is possible.