A film director and beer maker will help 12 young Mexican mathematicians fly to South Africa to participate in an international math contest after they issued a plea for support.
Film director Guillermo del Toro, whose film The Shape of Water won best picture at the 2018 Academy Awards, will pay for the students’ flights while Grupo Modelo has offered to pay for the team’s accommodation in South Africa.
The Mexico City Math Olympiad team will represent their country at the South Africa Mathematics Olympiad August 1-6 in Durban.
The team of elementary and middle school students had said they would be unable to send a full complement to South Africa because of cuts by the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt).
The council gave the team 1.6 million pesos (US $84,210) this year, 35% less than last year.
A round-trip ticket from Mexico to South Africa costs at least 41,000 pesos (US $2,157), or $25,884 for a team of 12.
The cuts to Conacyt are part of the austerity policies of the federal government.
Conacyt, which has been dogged by scandals of alleged embezzlement, misuse of funds and nepotism, was hit with a 12% budget cut this year. President López Obrador referred to the corruption scandals and the high salaries of Conacyt employees to justify the cuts.
“There are mafias everywhere, even in science,” he said.
But many in the scientific community are worried about the effects the cuts could have. Alonso Huerta, president of the National Network of Councils and State Science and Technology Organizations, criticized the president’s attitude towards science education.
“If we want to reach our economic growth goals, which are quite ambitious, we need to promote science and technology, and connect it with the productive sector,” he said.