Education in San Miguel: Between Conformity and Trailer Cars
By Jesús Aguado
In the other San Miguel—at the ejido de Tirado—there is a neighborhood called Magisterio, with a kindergarten that shelters 40 students daily. This kindergarten is in the urban zone. It is not only lacking a name, but also basic services: water, electricity, drainage, and decent classrooms. But it also lacks one other important thing: the legal title to the land for constructing the infrastructure.
Without the legal title, the Guanajuato Secretariat of Education (SEG) cannot construct classrooms in that zone. On the other hand, Acacio Martínez, Director of the Education Department of the local administration, made it clear that the legal title will be handed over to the SEG in the months to come. He also remarked that the representative of the SEG in the north region, Román Cifuentes, assured that even if the legal certainty of the plot is obtained this year, the classrooms will not be constructed until 2016.
The right to education and the problem
The right to education is considered in article 3 of the Mexican constitution, according to attorney Lourdes Morales, who has been working with children’s rights and nonprofit organizations for the last 15 years. According to the lawyer, the article states that all individuals have the right to receive basic education (pre-primary—for children from three to six years old—primary, and secondary). The article is also clear when it notes that the state will guarantee the quality of education, the materials, and educational methods in the organization and educational infrastructure, as well as in the capacity of the teachers who must guarantee the maximum knowledge for the students. Morales also commented that the Convention of Children’s Rights states in its Article 24, part 2 E, that the state must guarantee the appropriate education. Article 57 of the Mexican Law for Children’s Rights states that the children have the right of access to a quality education.
The colonia Magisterio kindergarten was established in 2012 on that legally undocumented land, and it has been recognized by the SEG with the registered number 11DJN4616I, part of zone 204 of alternative education, which is offered to those zones with a low number of students. Undergraduates are hired or receive a scholarship and, in exchange, they do social service in those “schools.” That type of school was requested by the residents of that area, who have to walk at least two or three kilometers to take their children to the nearest regular school. The parents were paying rent on a house in the same neighborhood, but later the owner wanted the house back, and there was no other place for educating the children. Later, the residents asked the local administration for help, receiving a donation of the irregular plot in an irregular land where the SEG later placed two “traveling classrooms” that are nothing more that trailers fitted as classrooms. In all this time, the school has been a victim of crime. Even the water containers were stolen, so they could not have water there, not even for washing the children’s hands.
Regardless of its being at an irregular school with trailer cars as classrooms, the children’s parents are happy with the kindergarten even when their children are sweating during this time of the year because of the hot weather and the makeup of the trailers, according to principal Fernanda Hernández. Sometimes, said the teacher, the students have to go under the trailers to find a little bit of shade and cover themselves from the sun.
The school, the parents, and the children
Most of the children are from single-parent families. They arrive at the kindergarten around 8:30am. At this time of day, we found doña Sagrario Anaya with Renata sitting on her legs and Christopher sitting on a flat stone. “Renata is not my child; neither is Christopher. They call me mom because they spend most of the time with me. Their mom works at Samsung in Querétaro, and she leaves her home at 6pm and returns the next day at 6am when the children are asleep. She just sees her children after they leave the kindergarten. Anaya receives 100 pesos every 15 days for taking care of Renata. “I do not charge for Christopher because I am his godmother,” says Sagrario.
Luz María Morales is also a single mom. She has two boys studying at that school. She says that the kindergarten “is pretty, and the parents clean it and make it look better.” She asks that the children have at least some kind of shade so they can stop playing under the trailers and avoid accidents.
The parents and children keep arriving. Don Mario Arellano took his granddaughter today. He remarked that the girl is at this school because taking her to another school is complicated due to the distance. “We have to be content with what we have,” says Arellano, although he is hoping that the SEG can construct the classrooms as soon as possible and provide the basic services.
Before 9am and also before the principal calls, “All to the classroom now,” the children jump over old tires on the ground and play with the school pet (Gokú). They run, they play, they scream, and they are as happy as the innocents they are. Once they are in their classrooms, the principal grants me an interview while two of them put wild flowers in her hair.
Fernanda Hernández comments that the teachers try their best to teach the children and make them happy. In those so-called classrooms, the blackboard is set up over two chairs, and there are two lines of desks. During the winter, comments the principal, the classrooms are so cold that last winter several students got sick. Now they are very hot, even when the windows are open. The principal also remarks that when she arrived in August last year, the school did not have decent bathrooms. “We have only a rustic construction with toilets no roof nor doors, just some curtains.” Actually, the bathrooms could not be used because there was no water, not even a septic tank. Later with the support from SAPASMA, the septic tank was constructed, and the parents built the roof. The improvement of the bathrooms was about to be supported by the SEG; however, because of the electoral ban, the work is not completed, according to Hernández. Thanks to the support of Don Pedro and a German woman, Vivian Trillen, water tanks have been donated, as well as two sinks plus pipes that Trillen’s plumber will install.
Acacio Martínez, Director of the Education Department in San Miguel, stated that this kind of alternative education is for places with low population. He made it clear that incolonia Magisterio the population is very high, and with the support of the Urban Development Department, they are looking for a place that would be nearer to these people. For that reason, the plot could not be in a regularized area, which is far from them.
Martínez made it clear that because this is an irregular zone, they have been facing several problems in getting the legal title (he did not specify the problems). “The normal process of obtaining a legal title is always complicated,” he remarked, saying in addition that he expects to hand over the legal certainty of the land to the SEG before the end of the current administration (October 9, this year). Martínez said in addition that even if the local government has the documents in advance from the SEG (according to Representative Cifuentes), the classrooms will not be constructed until 2016. “There are legal titles that have been far too slow, like that of the CBtis (a preparatory), that took 40 years; but this one will come fast,” he said.
The SEG informed Atención that Representative Cifuentes, along with Martínez and the director of the USAE (Unity of Services and Support for Education), conducted a visit to the place in March, and he ordered the director of the USAE to improve the bathrooms. Cifuentes asked Martínez to accelerate efforts to get the legality of the land regularized.
After getting the legal title of the plot, the SEG will start the construction of the classrooms and will also provide the basic services. The SEG also will change this kindergarten from alternative to regular-style education.