More than 6,000 schools have been targets of robbery during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an education advocacy organization.
Mexicanos Primero said in a new report that 6,008 schools have been burglarized since schools shut in March last year.
Their combined losses total 600 million pesos (US $29.3 million), the group said, explaining that items such as computers, musical instruments, speakers, laboratory equipment, air conditioners, chairs, desks, water pumps, copper pipes and security cameras have been stolen.
Jalisco has recorded the highest number of such robberies with a total of 643 cases followed by Guanajuato with 581 and Aguascalientes with 514. Coahuila and Sonora round out the top five with 500 and 446 cases, respectively.
Mexicanos Primero research director Fernando Ruiz told the newspaper Reforma that the figures were compiled from media reports and from information provided by state governments and schools.
He said the high number of robberies is one factor that explains low attendance at schools since many of them reopened at the beginning of last week.
“What we’re seeing is that the reopening [of schools] is a failure, at least in the terms that the federal government sought,” Ruiz said.
The facilities at many schools are in poor condition due to being abandoned during the pandemic, he added, citing those in Mexico City as an example. Nine out of 10 schools in the capital didn’t open because of the condition they were in.
He said that a lack of resources and bureaucratic obstacles will make replacing stolen items and carrying out repairs difficult.
In Aguascalientes, for example, some 30% of schools have sustained robberies or vandalism during the pandemic but state education authorities don’t have the money to remedy the situation at all of them, Ruiz said.
He said the federal Ministry of Public Education (SEP) needs to outline what it will do to help schools that don’t have the resources to carry out repairs and replace stolen items.
With the aim of preventing additional robberies and acts of vandalism, Morena party Senator Cecilia Sánchez tabled a document this week that calls on the SEP and the federal Security Ministry to work with their state counterparts to implement or strengthen operations against such crimes.
“With school activities suspended, various media outlets reported a range of illegal acts at educational facilities in all states, proof of that is the report by the organization Mexicanos Primero,” Sánchez said.
“… In the same vein, SNTE [teachers union] secretary-general Alfonso Cepeda Salas announced that 40% to 50% of schools have been vandalized or have recorded thefts during the current health emergency. … [Those figures] represent between 86,000 and 108,000 public schools,” the senator said.