Project update: Education for 250 working children in Chiapas
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In the last three months of 2012 we worked with 209 children (107 boys and 102 girls) through a range of activities which we carry out in the markets, squares and main streets where children work. Though we have limited funds for this purpose, we are also able to support a small number of these children with scholarships. This update provides a case study of one of our scholars to explain why this is necessary, and how it helps them.
In theory, the Mexican constitution guarantees free education to all citizens; in practice the cost of books, uniforms and charges for exams and other levies present a barrier that keeps children out of school. Nearly a quarter of the population aged 3-18 in our city doesn’t attend. We currently award grants to 11 girls and 4 boys.
Julia Santiz is one of those receiving a grant. A 12 year old indigenous Mayan, her mother tongue is the Tsotsil language, though she is now more fluent in Spanish. Julia has completed the fifth year of primary school, which she attends in the afternoons. From Tuesday to Friday she does paid work looking after a baby; at the weekends she looks after her little sister while her mother goes out to work.
Julia says that taking part in Melel Xojobal’s Learning Circles has helped her a lot with her school work, especially as her mother can only provide limited support. Her school teacher says that her reading ability has improved significantly in the last year.
Julia’s family of five lives in a single room, sharing a bathroom with three other families. Their furniture consists of a stove and gas tank, two beds made out of wooden boards, a table and some wooden chairs. The room has a window for ventilation, a concrete floor and walls and a tile roof. Julia, her mother and younger brother all work; the father is alcoholic and unemployed.
Given the family’s difficult economic circumstances, the scholarship makes the difference between Julia attending school or dropping out. This is a big plus in a city where few girls among the population of working children complete their primary education, and very few continue to secondary level.