November 3, 2021

No school in Mexico due to Covid-19

Your old electronics help students learn

I’m sure we have all experienced a shift in our daily routines in the past year. Whether your classes have been replaced by Zoom meetings or your commute has shortened to the distance between your bed and the couch, the covid pandemic has moved our livelihoods increasingly online. For many in the West, this has been a rocky adjustment, but, slowly but surely, we are getting used to this ‘new normal.’ 


For many more across the world however, this ‘new normal’ is not as easy to adjust to. Vulnerable people from across the world who were already struggling before the pandemic are the ones who have been hit hardest by lockdowns, school closings and the rapid on-boarding of online employment. 


Zooming in to the Mexican example, we start to see how different people have experienced this catastrophic event. As schools across Mexico remain closed in response to the covid pandemic, existing inequalities deepen, threatening an entire generation of Mexican youth.


What’s happening

With schools closed in Mexico, students are expected to teach themselves. For those with an internet connection, they can download and submit their assignments virtually, communicating with their teachers and classmates on WhatsApp for help or with questions. After all, 9 in 10 people in Mexico have a smartphone. That 1 in 10, however, makes up 8 million people.


While this is a difficult but manageable change for many students who come from middle- and upper-class backgrounds, those from marginalised communities are having a tougher time. In many rural communities in Mexico, families do not have enough extra cash to buy a smartphone, let alone to continually recharge it with data to download and submit assignments. And even if they did, the internet connections in these rural spaces is spotty at best. According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), only 27% of students in rural areas have internet access at home.


In response to this obvious gap, the Mexican government implemented a program that would air education programs for different grade levels on television and radio. While this is a step in the right direction, it does not account for the 1.5 million students who don’t have television, and then 1.4 million who do have a TV, but cannot pick up the digital signal the classes are broadcast on. While radio and TV seem like a reasonable option, one instance of prolonged rain or gap in electricity could set a student back weeks.


Most of these communities are made up of indigenous people and are in very rural areas. There has been an effort made for instructors to provide personalised attention to individual students and hand deliver their assignments, but the up-keep and sustainability of this solution is tenuous at best. As it stands now, the poorest households--who are already disadvantaged--stand a greater disadvantage compared to others with technology and tools to continue classes online. This serves to deepen the education gap in Mexico and, thereby, deepen inequalities that already existed.


In a non-pandemic year, nearly 600.000 students dropout of high school each year in Mexico, one of the highest rates in Latin America. Whether it be for financial, academic or other reasons, only 7 out of 10 students who enter upper secondary school finish on time. As a result of the covid-19 pandemic, that number is predicted to double in even the most conservative estimates. As of now, there is no comprehensive plan to prevent high dropouts. 


How we can help

We can put our old electronics to good use and help students access their education across Mexico. As we mentioned above, those who come from marginalised or vulnerable populations have been hardest hit by their schools closing because they lack the internet connectivity that would make accessing their education so much easier. While we can’t solve this entrenched inequality all at once, we can surely help make a dent in it in the short-term.


By donating our old laptops, smartphones and tablets, we can bridge a gap that is holding many Mexican students back from being able to receive and submit their assignments.


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ANIMA wouldn’t be possible without our volunteers.Last week in Mexico, our volunteers helped us distribute donations, load up software on donated laptops, organise drop-offs and pick-ups and helped us communicate with local people.