It’s September. And just like every September for years and years, kids are headed back to school. However, to state the obvious, going back to school in the midst of COVID-19 looks pretty different. Parents around the globe are being forced to make tough decisions that didn’t seem so complicated last September. “Do I send my kids to school? Keep them home? With or without masks? What do we do about playdates and sports?”
Families here in Mexico are facing many of the same challenges, only the struggles here are amplified by very limited access to internet and difficult economic circumstances. Most schools in Mexico have not opened up for students to return to in-person classes. This leaves parents in marginalized areas scrambling to figure out how to continue their children’s education.
“It’s been so hard. It’s been exhausting” Paulet tells me. Paulet, a community leader with Urban Mosaic, has two children in elementary school. “I go to work all day and come home to do school with my kids. We start in the afternoon and sometimes don’t finish till 12 or 1AM. We don’t have internet and the only functional screen we have in the house is my phone, but the signal on my phone is so slow. Sometimes it takes several minutes just for the next assignment to load.”
Like Paulet, other parents are also really struggling with this new challenge. One mother told me, “My son is in high school now and we really want him to continue studying. But it’s been difficult. Sometimes just one little assignment takes 5 minutes to load. There’s no internet up here and the phone signal is so bad. Also, paying for so much credit on my phone is getting expensive. It’s an additional cost that’s hard to pay for.”
Mari, a community leader and mom who works with Urban Mosaic added, “I had a really hard time registering my first grader for classes. I went to the school every day for weeks and they told me it wasn’t possible to include her in the class. Finally, one day I got lucky. I ran into the director of the school. I explained my situation to him and he told me he’d make room for my daughter. The next day we started classes online. Unfortunately, we don’t have internet, so every day we walk down to the school, about a 30 minute walk, and try to do class sitting outside to use the school’s internet. It’s been really difficult because I work too, so it’s not so easy.”
While many parents are struggling to keep their kids in class, the economic conditions continue to worsen. Crime, violence and food insecurity are all on the rise. One beacon of hope in the midst of such challenge is the Urban Mosaic Food Security Project. This project is working with several hundred families to provide food security through the provision of laying hens, rabbits and gardens, while also working to reactivate the local economy through micro business.
The challenges each of us are shouldering look very different… from one family to the next, from one country to the next… With these differences an invitation arises: instead of comparing our hardships to others, may we let our hardships expand our compassion, creating space for more empathy and connection between us.
Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries and champion of at-risk kids wrote, “Compassion isn’t just about feeling the pain of others; it’s about bringing them in toward yourself. If we love what God loves, then, in compassion, margins get erased.”
Together, let’s erase the margins so that we can more completely love and serve as Jesus calls us to do.