youth orchestra Armed with their instruments.

Guitars, not guns, with Chihuahua’s Plan Villa

'The child who plays an instrument never takes up arms or drugs'

It’s guitars before guns for children in the state of Chihuahua, where Plan Villa aims to form 1,000 orchestras, along with the creation of 7,500 basketball teams, as diversions away from organized crime.

Named after the famed revolutionary general Pancho Villa and timed with the 100th anniversary of his tenure as governor of Chihuahua, the plan is designed to keep youth away from the influence of organized crime. Government officials say the objective is also to demonstrate to children that they have talent they can utilize.

Children will have access to 70,000 instruments, including violins, guitars, percussion instruments, clarinets, saxophones and others, and each orchestra will be accompanied by choirs of 30 youths.

“The child who plays an instrument never takes up arms or drugs; they are hard to transform into somebody who doesn’t understand the value of the human being that they are,” said Marcelo González Tachiquín, Secretary of Education, Culture, and Sports.

Members of Chihuahua’s current 50 youth orchestras have joined for various reasons. While some are bored at home, others were forced to by parents and several are following their idols.

Kenia Rubio, 10, began playing the clarinet after she saw the cartoon SpongeBob Squarepants, which has a clarinet-playing character named Squidward.

But Plan Villa is not just about music. It also plans to help youth recover their love for basketball. González Tachiquín said the focus is not on who wins because “we want to create a culture of competitiveness with a foundation of rules, something very urgent now for the times in which we live in Mexico.”

Youths like Daniel Salas and Isaac Ramírez, both 17 years old, admit that the sport has helped them stay away from drugs and alcohol. Now that their free time is spent playing sports, their friends have changed.

A fundamental part of the plan will be students’ emotional well-being. It will also seek to cultivate an appreciation for school. Students’ school sweaters, for example, will indicate the year in which they will finish university.

From April until next August, elementary school teachers and principals are going to be receiving training to be able to understand and apply the new model.

González Tachiquín pointed out that “Chihuahua is fortunate to have a seasoned faculty and a well-constructed alliance between the government, union bases and parents.”

Source: Milenio (sp)

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