José, a well-intentioned young student from the impoverished San Rafael Barrio in the far east of Puerto Peñasco is an example of how many students can get displaced in the over-crowded education system here. Up until the age of 15 when kids advance into the “secundaria” (secondary) and “preparatoria” (preparatory) levels of schooling, similar to junior and senior high school grades, space is tight but with a double shift everyday they all seem to get a desk at their school, at least through secundaria.
However, at the most crucial point of their education, that point where they start working for the all important preparatoria certificate of completion which will help get them into jobs with career potential, or at the very least, jobs enabling skill development that will earn them promotions and raises, frequently students find there is no room for them. All the desks are full. In some cases, even if there is room, this is the level at which students or their families must begin to pay for the schooling. There is a charge for books (100 pesos), and a charge for the 33 tests (55 pesos each) that qualify them for the needed certificate .
You can see the Catch 22 scenario here. If there is no room in the schools it represents a seemingly insurmountable obstacle preventing a student to study and earn the certificate that even a convenience store chain requires of new hires. If the student is lucky enough to find a place in a preparatory level and his family can’t afford to pay the tuitions required, there is another Catch 22 on the horizon.
Fortunately, there are some partial remedies for when overcrowding is an obstacle to completing the preparatoria certificate. The most effective alternative is the state sponsored Instituto Sonorense de Educación para Los Adultos (Sonoran Institute of Adult Education) located on Sonora in the building of the Confederación de Trabajadores de Mexico (Mexican Confederation of Workers). All together it is ISEA-CTM.
This small arm of the state government accomplishes quite a bit of education for its size. It provides primary and secondary certificates at no charge to students many of whom come in off the streets seeking to better themselves. The director, Technical Docent Rebeca Delgado Ramirez and a handful of teachers who work for what amounts to an honorarium make themselves available to assist in the instruction of not only the primary and secondary students, but they also help the preparatory students with their “guide” books and the 33 tests necessary to complete the certificate requirements.
ISEA-CTM performs another noteworthy and educationally redeeming function directed toward teaching local citizens who are members of some of the many indigenous tribes who do not speak or write Spanish. They speak only their tribal dialects, of which there are over 70 recognized in the country. This effort is provided at no cost to the indigenous students, all adults, who attend classes every Tuesday and Wednesday for two hours until they become proficient in both reading and writing. You may have had the occasion to interact with of these tribal members as they offered you jewelry or other products on the beach or elsewhere. If you attempted to speak Spanish with them and wondered why they didn’t respond to what you knew was perfectly understandable use of the language, well, now you probably have the reason. They didn’t understand any Spanish, from you or anyone else. ISEA-CTM is working on that for us at the rate of about 30 students at a time. Their first class of this nature began last June with a group of Aztec descendants who spoke only their native Nahuatl. The school was determined to continue the classes until the students were able to speak and write Spanish to a working level, no matter how long the class would take. Good news is, they hope to have their first graduating class in March or April of this year, and will start their second group immediately thereafter.
Back to the preparatory certificates, the second part of the Catch 22 for preparatory education, the part involving the nearly two thousand pesos for books and tests, is another challenge. Enter our good friends at Adopt-a-Classroom, Barb and Mark Olszewski, who have added ISEA-CTM to the list of 13 schools they help with donations of school supplies, furnishings such as air conditioners, white boards and desks to name just a few, physical repairs and fixtures and so many other services that seem to be in constant need by these organizations.
In the case of young José, Barb, who knew Jose’s family through her work with the non-profit Esperanza Para Nueva Vida Assistance Center, contacted her friends at the Playa Bonita RV Park social club, an informal, really hang-loose group of about 70 fun loving folks made up mainly of permanent residents of the park, but who welcome most anyone to participate in their very active calendar of games and dinners and other activities that include Bingo, Bunko, Bridge, Right, Left, Center, and a bunch of other fun things. There are no formal officers of this close-knit group, but for the last couple of years Will and Leslie Creaney have taken on the organizational duties and sent out the monthly email newsletter. As a result of the many activities, the PB Social Club raises a helpful amount of funds which they like to use to give back to the community. It happened that this year they were looking to help in the educational area and naturally got a hold of Barb with their intentions. Barb had just learned of José’s financial need to pursue his educational dream of helping his family in spite of not being able to find space in his high school to study for the preparatory certificate. PB Social Club offered the perfect solution and that project is well underway.
By the way, if you’ve been looking for some fun activities around out little slice of paradise by the sea, you might want to send Leslie an email requesting to be put on her email list that includes the monthly calendar for the PB Social Club. Her address is firstname.lastname@example.org , and if you’d like to help Adopt-a-Classroom in any way, please contact Barb at email@example.com . She’ll be glad to fill you in on their current needs for the schools.
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