Mexico’s Plight of the Children. The Authors Collection.

Rural Elementary School classroom in Mexico.
Rural Elementary School classroom in Mexico.

We drove down to visit a rural school last week. More accurately, a school in the jungle.  It is only about forty miles south of Puerto Vallarta, but a world of difference.

In the U.S., we worry about overcrowding. Class size should not exceed a certain number – often twenty.   We are concerned if some classes must be held in detached wooden classrooms. Can the school provide hot meals for those who cannot afford to pay for them? Children living any distance from school are picked up by bus and transported to a school. But, these bus routes should be designed so that the students do not have a longer ride than absolutely necessary. Are the playgrounds adequate? And beyond elementary school, are the athletic fields and equipment excellent.

Riding a donkey instead of a bus to school.
Riding a donkey instead of a bus to school.

In these rural areas in Mexico, worries focus on a more fundamental level. Is there a wall to fix a blackboard to? Is there a good roof to keep the rain out? Is there a bathroom for the children?

Often, the answer to all of those is: no.  There may not be a wall or a roof. And often there is no bathroom. The children may have to go home (which might be a long walk), or perhaps visit the home of a friend, or find a suitable bush.  In some instances, black plastic hung on poles and a bucket must suffice.

Like most governments today, the Mexican governments (city, state, federal) have no money to assist the school systems with building of any sort.  Certainly, none is available for the small schools in the jungle. And the parents are struggling with more important things, like putting food on the tables.

The purpose of our trip last week was to finalize plans for bathroom facilities for an elementary school. A number of Canadians, and a few Americans, have collected funds to build the bathrooms (a very minimal structure – a single commode for girls and one for the boys, and a single sink outside for washing hands. Even though this is a simple structure and this is a depressed area, materials are expensive. Water must be run some distance and a septic system installed.

This is only one of many such schools that need bathroom facilities, enclosed rooms, equipment and supplies, and much more.  It seems like an impossible task. But rather than think about what cannot be done, we concentrate on helping one school.  When that is finished, another school can be tackled.

A number of Canadians have been involved in this for a few years and have helped several schools. Americans have not been aware of the problems and I am sure they will be pitching in once they see the need.

What I am saying is that Americans should recognize what good school facilities we have. Strive to improve them? Certainly. But realize that we have provided well, if not perfectly. Count our blessings. And perhaps, lend a hand to others less fortunate.


Please click the book cover image to read more about James R. Callan and his novels.


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