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I just came back from Tehhuipango, Orizaba, Veracruz, to a region where I marvel at the strength and determination of many of the students.
About a month ago, I spent a whole day in tutorial relationships with some students at the Escuela Secundaria Technica No. 126. We finished up just a few moments after the bell rang and one by one we parted ways. It was started to get cold and the drizzle began.
I quickly hopped into our car, thankful for the shelter and the warmth inside. As we drove out, I waved my farewells to the last of the students that trickling out of the school gate. About 30 minutes into our journey back from the Sierra to the city, I spotted two people in the distance in a café brown sweater with two orange stripes on each sleeve – the school uniform of the secundaria. As we whizzed past them, I waved, but wondered, where were they going?
Luis Avala, the technical academic advisor (or ATP for its Spanish abbreviation) for this school told me that there are some students in the school that live almost in the next state, near Puebla, and walk about an hour and a half to get to school by 7am. And it’s dangerous to be walking so early in the morning.
I shared these stories with some other enlaces, Fidel García and Juan Pedro Rosete and nodding, they told me that an hour and a half is little. In Pubela, some walk 3 or 4 hours up and down the mountains each way to get to school – both primary and secondary school students. That’s determination.
It takes a whole lot of love for school and learning to put in that much effort to get to school. I don’t know if I’d have it in me to stay in school against these odds. But these kids do. Day in and day out, with their bags filled with schoolbooks, rain or shine, they come to school, wanting to learn.
On one hand, I think of those of us who take taxis to school or are driven right to our school gate, making it to easy for us to excel in our studies. But I think those who are really cherishing their education and excelling are these kids in Tehuipango, who everyday go against the odds to learn. And on the other, the student’s brute determination reminds me that our call as educators, policy-makers, principals, teachers – all of us better make that walk worth it. Our call and our duty to these students is higher, more intense, more crucial; we have to make each day count. Otherwise we’d be letting our students down, we have to keep growing, keep learning so that they can receive the best of us.
That is why I believe the work we are doing here with EIMLE and relación tutora is so important – we’re learning to walk. We are all learning to climb the mountain of the immense challenges before us- be if parents who are illiterate, or students who are more comfortable speaking Nahuatl – to bring real quality learning to each classroom.
In schools with many students who clock the miles daily coming from one end of the mountains to the next, from teacher to ATP, our collective vision is clear: we need to do everything possible to make sure that walk is worth it.