Straw-covered classrooms in San Mateo del Mar. Straw-covered classrooms in San Mateo del Mar.

‘Government promises but never delivers’

Citizens erect temporary classrooms in Oaxaca to get their children back in school

Tired of waiting for the government to rebuild a school damaged in an earthquake September 7, parents in San Mateo del Mar, Oaxaca, built one themselves.

Some 400 students at the Emiliano Zapata primary school returned to classes this week after principal Juan Salomón Canales led the effort to rebuild the school temporarily with straw, palm fronds and wood in the traditional way of the indigenous Ikojts people.

“The government promises many things but never delivers. We were told the school rooms were going to be rebuilt, but they’ve done nothing. [And] the children were unable to return to the school because the constant tremors continue to damage it,” said the principal.

Each of the 10 temporary classrooms was built by teams of parents and relatives in 15 days.

Now the 400 children have been divided into two groups. The first goes to school in the morning and the second in the afternoon.

Recent weather conditions are testing the work: northerly wind gusts have reached speeds of 170 kilometers per hour, threatening the safety of the classrooms.

“This is not ideal,” said Salomón, “but at least it offers some protection from the strong winds . . . this is temporary, because we’re still hoping for our school to be rebuilt.”

The Emiliano Zapata school was the last of 32 schools in the municipality to reopen. All were temporarily constructed in the same way, using traditional materials so that students would not miss any more classroom time.

San Mateo del Mar was one of the last areas of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca to receive any kind of humanitarian aid in the aftermath of the quake.

According to the social development agency Coneval, of the 14,000 inhabitants of San Mateo del Mar 89% live in poverty, and 40% are behind in education levels.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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