Due to the COVID-19 crisis, it is estimated that 9 out of 10 children around the world are currently out of school. For most students in the U.S., this means distance learning, with students studying online on tablets or laptops.
Here in Juluchuca, school is also out of session, but with little technology to support distance learning. It’s easy to wonder, what are these children doing all day?
Why Distance Learning is a Challenge Here
When Mexican quarantine measures were put into place on March 20, schools were notified five days prior that classes would be cancelled through the Easter holiday. Those measures have now been extended until April 30.
In Juluchuca, school closures included our four local schools—the kindergarten, elementary school, middle school and high school. The government’s advance notification gave teachers time to prepare printed homework packets for students to work on during the closure. Though some families in Juluchuca have wireless internet in their homes, few have more than a smartphone to work with, which makes any formal online learning programs virtually impossible.
Further up the watershed, there are three additional elementary schools, also without online learning. In communities like La Ceiba and Las Placitas, there is no phone service or wireless internet at all. For this reason, school leaders have resorted to printed homework packets for students to work on during the closure.
How Children are Spending Their Days
As we all know, children can only sit and do their homework for so long. In Juluchuca, this means that a large part of each child’s day is spent outside—whether playing marbles in the street or rummaging through the recycling for materials to build a homemade kite. Other kids are learning to ride a bike or play loteria, a local card game, with their cousins. The teenagers can often be seen biking to our local beach to test their luck fishing in the lagoon or the ocean.
While many parents are trying to keep their children socially distanced, it’s proving challenging in a small, close-knit community like Juluchuca. This is a place where neighbors and families are used to spending a lot of time together.
For parents who are fortunate enough to still have jobs, their children are often seen tagging along as they head off to work. This is the reality for
Brayan and Luis, two brothers whose parents both work on a nearby mango plantation. All four of the family members pile onto the family motorbike to head to the huerto, or farm, each morning. Brayan, who is in 6th grade, helps with the harvest and keeps an eye on Luis, who is in the 1st grade. Both Brayan and Luis are in our Adopt a Student Program, an initiative Playa Viva started this past October to support students and their families who struggle to pay school inscription fees, afford school lunches and manage other associated expenses.
Another student, who is also in our Adopt a Student Program, Sara, is using this time to practice her reading and her English. Sara is 13 but only in the 5th grade since she didn’t attend school for several years. Thanks to generous donations from Playa Viva guests, we had several teen novels in Spanish to give to Sara to keep her occupied. Ariel, our education coordinator, often passes by Sara’s house and shouts his greetings.
Her response? A return yell full of the details about what’s going on in the books she’s reading! As for English, with our usual language classes cancelled, Sara didn’t want to forget what she had learned so far. By using the internet at her neighbor’s house, she was able to download an English language learning app on her small cellphone, full of games and activities to keep her mind active.
More Family Time—Sound Familiar?
For other students, this chapter of school closures means more family time. It means longer meals, card games and afternoons at the beach. For the families up the watershed, it means they have their children around to help with household chores like hand washing clothes, grinding corn for nixtamal to make fresh tortillas, and tending to their farm animals. For everyone, it means more hammock time.
With the recent Easter holiday, families still gathered to share a meal and give thanks for what they have. While families remain optimistic and are taking advantage of this time to spend together, the economic impact of this crisis is still causing stress for many residents.
For those school children enrolled in our Adopt a Student program, we are supporting their families with a monthly food basket since there are no longer school lunches. For those students who will be graduating this year and enrolled in the Adopt a Student Program, we are still able to cover the graduation fees thanks to so many generous sponsors in the program.
If you would like to learn more about our Adopt A Student Program, you can email Colleen at email@example.com. During this difficult time there are many other residents in our community who would benefit greatly from a food basket, so we also are working to expand their distribution.
And if you would like to purchase a food basket for a family in need for $40 USD, please visit our GoFundMe donation page make your contribution. Upon donating, Colleen will follow up with information about the family you’re helping to support. Thank you for your efforts and contributions toward Juluchuca’s students and their families.