Schools without girls or boys... a bleak reality
Education in emergencies
A long line surrounds the School Complex of La Paz No. 2 "25 DE JUNIO" in zone 5 of Guatemala City. It is made up of parents who are waiting for the doors of the educational center to open. All wearing face masks, talking to each other, keeping the suggested safety distance. They know the protocol; it is the second time that they are summoned to school.
As the program establishes, at 8 a.m., school staff give them access to go inside, very orderly, they form new, smaller rows, organized by grades. Each person occupies a space within a circle, indicated by an orange cone located two meters from each other.
Dozens of people occupy the sports fields, no child among them. The numerous drawings and the welcome messages hanging on the walls of the classrooms still lie on top of empty desks, chairs and desks.
In each classroom, the absence of the voices and laughter of girls and boys increases the desolation of the school.
After a few minutes, a teacher attends them. With the identity document in hand, they sign the registration lists corresponding to their children, exchange jokes and invisible smiles because of the mask that they now must wear and receive various supplies.
Similar scenes are repeated the day after at the Official Mixed Rural School (EORM) No. 77 in the Los Mixcos village of Palencia and in hundreds of other schools in the country.
As a result of the declaration of the "State of Calamity" at national level due to the presence of Covid-19 cases in Guatemala, since March 15 classes were suspended in a general way for all levels and in all educational centers of the country.
Suddenly, the students stopped attending classes and, together with their families, they had to face a new reality, how to continue learning from home. One week it took the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) to adapt to the change and study alternatives so that the educational activity did not stop, designing a diversity of alternatives so that the children could continue with their learning.
Thanks to the support of UNICEF, at the national level it has also been possible to deliver non-perishable food to more than 2.4 million Pre-Primary and Primary children as an alternative to school meals, as well as the production of educational sessions to be broadcast on television and national radio and the reproduction of learning guides and educational guidelines to respond to the curricular adaptation proposed in the framework of the COVID-19 emergency.
Jorge Francisco Daniel Bran Cifuentes, 41, director of the Mixed Rural Official School No. 77 in Palencia, a municipality located just over 30 kilometers from the center of the capital city, recognizes the importance of the Organization of Family Parents (OPF) to achieve the delivery of the food bags:“Without them it would have been impossible to coordinate these activities, both administratively and organizationally. Specially in a reality like ours, rural, where many people do not have access to smartphones, parents have been essential for the information to flow from house to house.”
OPFs are organizations made up of mothers and fathers, who participate voluntarily, to support the work of the school. It is through this figure that the Ministry of Education, with the support of UNICEF, transfers resources so that boys and girls can continue to receive their school meals (Q4.00 approximately $ 0.50, per student enrolled in public establishments).
Doña Tomasa receives the bag from the director of the zone 5 establishment, Myrna Patricia Orellana, 60, and looks at the contents through the transparent bag. Myrna wastes no time and takes the opportunity to verify that nothing is missing. Following the list exposed to the public and, addressing all the parents, she breaks down the articles (rice, beans, sugar, pasta, cornmeal ...) and invites everyone to pay attention.
“We have just remodeled the kitchen, it is a pity that it is not working, we need the children,” laments Myrna, “but we recognize the importance of good nutrition for students and, especially at this time, so financially hard for families, the food bags that we are delivering are very helpful. They are products for 15 days, three school weeks”.
Before dismissing parents by giving them “Self-Study Guides,” each teacher in charge of the delivery emphasizes the importance of a brochure. There are the "10 Golden Rules to Prevent Coronavirus". Indeed, at this time, hygiene practices and social behavior habits became important and urgent learning.
“Just as we do it, at school, we are also applying and respecting the sanitary protocols recommended by the Ministry of Health, it is important to transfer this knowledge to parents so that they can practice then with their family”, Myrna remarks.
Hoping to return to school soon, a new synergy has been created among all actors in the education sector to continue to face the emergency.