TIJUANA, Mexico – Dozens of migrant children stranded in the northern Mexican border city of Tijuana these days are being schooled online by a non-governmental organization that offers them materials to continue virtually with their classes, like millions of Mexican students are doing.
El Cañon del Alacran is one of the poorest neighborhoods on the outskirts of Tijuana, which is under great pressure these days due to the closure of international borders due to the coronavirus pandemic and the arrival of thousands of migrants who, because no hearings have yet been set for them in US courts, remain stranded there.
Among the hidden trash dumps, stagnant sewage, livestock farms and a noteworthy absence of municipal public services, hundreds of families are packed in to the streets and alleyways of El Cañon del Alacran.
Amid these difficulties there stands a refuge for migrants known as Embajadores de Jesus (Ambassadors of Jesus), a Christian church located 17 kilometers (about 10 miles) from the El Chaparral international border crossing point.
The church offers shelter to dozens of families with children who, since the start of classes in Mexico on Aug. 24, have been able to resume their studies long-distance within the framework of the new normal.
There are about 60 children, most of them from Central America, taking classes there, but there is also a handful of Haitian and even displaced Mexican kids from the country’s interior, all of whom came to the northern border with their families hoping to be able to cross into the US.
All of them were on the brink of losing a year in school because they didn’t have any computers or teachers who could help them continue their education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That was why the Juventud Activista Internacional (International Youth Activist) Foundation took the initiative and facilitated the online classes for the migrant kids, who for weeks now have been taught long-distance by instructors who provide their time and talents on a volunteer basis.
The teachers connect with the kids online from Mexico City, various points in the US and other Latin American countries, and they hold classes for them in their areas of specialty, such as mathematics, Spanish and human rights, among other subjects.
Andrea Rincon, the president of Juventud Activista Internacional, told EFE on Monday that it’s a program that, much more than providing education, tries to give the youngsters the tools they need to defend their international rights.
Most of the children, along with their families, are awaiting court dates on which US authorities will evaluate their cases and either authorize – or reject – their asylum requests.
Rincon mentioned that because of the health emergency many of the NGOs have stopped providing all sorts of help to refugees, but her organization could not allow the children to go without their proper schooling.
A teacher offers his or her class online via a television screen and the children listen and interact via microphone, review their assignments and lessons and begin getting to know their instructor virtually.
This education model is similar to what more than 30 million Mexican children have been experiencing since Aug. 24 when they began their school year from home, a new situation amid the COVID-19 crisis in which parents have become teachers and the children have exchanged their classrooms for television sets and computers.
Francisco, an 11-year-old Salvadoran, told EFE with great excitement that he was paying very close attention to his studies because he wants to be a police officer when he grows up to be able to help the most disadvantaged people in society.
Meanwhile, Maria Luisa Sanchez, the mother of several children at the shelter, still yearns to realize the American Dream.
And although she says she’s very thankful that in Tijuana there are people who ensure that her children can get their schooling, even though it’s long-distance and must take place amid such problematic conditions.
So far, Mexico has registered almost 670,000 cases of the coronavirus and suffered 70,821 deaths from COVID-19.