Guanajuato Rural Schools Symposium Generates Excitement

Alejandro Victoria Ceron, Head of Coordination Department for the Strengthening of Integral Education, and Tania Selene Ortiz Blanco, teacher Elementary School of El Salitrillo

By Joseph Plummer

More than 130 Mexicans and gringos gained a rare view into the challenges facing rural students, teachers, and parents during San Miguel de Allende’s first symposium on rural education, “Gold Stars for Schools in the Campo,” at the Rosewood Hotel on February 26.

Event organizers were gratified that the two-hour event crystalized around potential responses. Next steps discussed were an education and career fair to present rural students with connections to continued learning and better career opportunities. The symposium also focused interest on expanding Internet service and defining benefits from Internet access in rural schools.

At the two-hour event, six educators from Guanajuato state described classrooms struggling to create positive influences to overcome burdens on children in rural villages. While educating students at six different grade levels in a single classroom, teachers must also offset students’ persistent hunger, the influence of public drunkenness among village adults, and the false promises of quitting school to “go north” and make money in the United States.

Teachers in rural schools combat these negative issues by encouraging parents to see a better future for children who continue in school, using the Internet where it is available to help families make use of larger networks of opportunity, and by teaching students to grow nourishing foods in school gardens.

Rural Education Institute of Mexico Director of Programs Carlos Martínez moderated the symposium, and, alongside teachers from rural schools, introduced experts such as Alejandro Victoria Ceron, known for his advocacy of rural schools.

Later, audience members in smaller discussion groups shared experiences and ideas on reducing dropout rates among rural students, deepening the contributions of NGOs to rural schools, and inspiring rural communities to become more actively involved in their own development.

“I was excited by the many young Mexican professionals, both as presenters and in the audience, full of ideas about this crucial issue for Mexico’s development,” symposium co-organizer Bill Wilkinson said.

Many in the audience came away with a similar sense of enthusiasm. “It was inspiring to hear Mexican students, teachers, and professionals sharing their knowledge of the challenges for rural education with such a diverse audience, including many of the expat gringos here who want to support their efforts,” Joyce Carlson said. “We can follow up on the ideas that emerged.”

Presenters also included Tania Selene Ortiz Blanco, a teacher at Pedro Moreno Elementary School of El Salitrillo; Universidad de Leon at San Miguel de Allende Director of Bachillerato Efrain Stefanoni; Emma Guerra, former director and teacher at School Guadalupe Victoria; Margarita Juarez of the community of La Palma; and Vicente Espinosa of the community of San Agustín del Bordito, a scholar of Jóvenes Adelante.

To receive a report of the symposium or for questions or comments, contact Carlos Martinez at carlos@ruraledmexico.org.

 

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