22 May 2003
Analú Pérez Espinoza, 17, and Silvia Fitz Ponce, 20, volunteered to join the Government’s Community Education programme teaching primary school students in rural and isolated communities in Mexico.
Every year some 32,000 young volunteers are selected, sent to around 29,300 far-flung villages around the country and tasked to teach some 290,000 pre-school and elementary students. In return for a two-year volunteering stint, these young Mexicans will receive a three-to-five year college scholarship.
Analú and Silvia, who also come from poor backgrounds, were assigned last year to Sta. Elena, a typical Mexican remote area where residents consider themselves lucky to even have a school.
"At first I was very nervous because I was told that this was a very demanding community," recalls Analú. "And in fact they laid out a bunch of rules. They told me that I could not be late, should spend all my time with the children during class hours and that I could not have boyfriends as visitors, because there had been a problem with that with the previous teacher."
But after a few months, the two young teachers settled nicely and won the hearts not only of their 16 students but their parents as well.
"Since the previous instructor had not done a very good job, the parents at first thought I would be the same and they were sort of resentful," Silvia remarks. "But when they saw that I was doing a good job and that the kids were advancing to the next grade level, they started to get along fine with me."
These small successes motivated the government to invest more in encouraging more volunteers and improving rural education. Recently, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), through Mexico’s National Council for Education Development (CONAFE), approved a $210-million loan to widen the education programme’s coverage and provide more quality teaching.
Most of the volunteers do obtain university degrees -- something that is remotely possible for poor Mexicans. But more than that, the programme enables these young volunteers to understand the realities of Mexico’s poorest people and communities and provide learning opportunities for every Mexican child -- a valuable lesson not even a university degree can teach.
Source: Paul Constance, Inter-American Development Bank
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Read more about:
Analu’s and Silvia’s stories
Parent associations’ volunteering in Sta. Elena
The Community Education programme
Inter-American Development Bank approves loan for Community Education Programme