Francisco Ortiz Bello
After I read Chivis' excellent post, I decided to post this editorial, which appeared in today's El Diario de Juarez, to illustrate just one of the many problems facing Mexican families trying to educate their children. As the article mentions, this is a perennial problem for Mexico's poor. While not directly related to the narco problem, it is one of the many factors that prevents Mexican children from obtaining an education, which, as Chivis' article shows, is related to the narco problem. Keep in mind that the Mexican Constitution states that every child has the right to receive a free education.
El Diario. 7-31-2012. For over three years, the term "cuotas", in our city, has acquired a connotation of danger, of alarm, closely linked to extortion and payments for supposed "rights" to do business by border enterprises.
Today, this potential threat exists for anybody who owns a business in this city. The recent case of seven auto parts stores riddled by bullets made it clear that, while some crime indicators show a detectable decrease, such as violent executions on the streets, or kidnappings, others, like extortion, continue in force.
But this time, I'm not talking about those "cuotas", but of others equally terrifying, traumatizing and stressful for parents dealing with the approaching return to school. More than 25,780,000 pre-school, elementary and secondary students; and around 4,300,000 higher level middle school, preparatory and technical-professional students are finishing their (summer) vacations. And, with that, beginning next week, with the initiation of registration procedures, begins also a real torment for thousands of parents, who barely earn enough to half support a family, and who, despite all that, will have to obtain huge and costly lists of school supplies, school uniforms, books, and, as if this weren't enough, they will have to pay the (in)famous school "cuota."
This (cuota) is equally illegal in its creation, fascistic and authoritarian. It's a payment that is generally agreed upon among parent organizations, in the form of a contribution to pay for things the schools lack. But it is the schools' principals and teachers who take it upon themselves to make these contributions "obligatory."
Just around that time --they'll be out soon-- all the nation's educative authorities come out and say that education is one of the basic rights enshrined in the Constitution and that, therefore, nobody may prevent a child from receiving (an education) under any circumstances.
However, thanks to those inexplicable and suspicious agreements among parents --members of parent committees--, and other similar requirements, the yearly sad and deplorable story will repeat itself. Dozens of children will not be able to start classes next August 20th, even if they have their place in the school and even if they have every desire and willingness to do so. It may be because they do not have a uniform, because they lack school supplies or because their parents have not been able to pay that famous "cuota," despite the fact that it is illegal --and even inhumane--; teachers and school principals will deny them access to the class rooms. So,then, how can we expect our children and our young people to become decent, responsible persons, I ask myself?
There are some truly extreme cases, and not a few, unfortunately, where the demands are such that uniforms, books and school supplies must be purchased in places specifically identified by school managers or parents' associations. This is because there may be prior arrangements or agreements by which the schools obtain certain benefits from the fact that all the students buy uniforms, for example, from the same business, or because the owner of the "official" stationery shop is a relative, friend or partner of one of the parent's committee board members.
This is how shameful and serious this issue gets every year when classes start. And, even though it's the same every year, and even though these disagreeable practices are denounced or, in some cases, sanctioned, they keep happening.
We're in the final stretch of the return to school. The period in which parents go crazy trying to get everything their children need to begin the new school year, and in which, undoubtedly, the main problem will be money.
If everything I've just described is a repetitive and cyclical scene that happens every year when classes start, is there some educative authority that is taking steps to make sure this doesn't happen? Are teachers and school principals willing to obey the law? If we truly want our children and young people to study and become responsible men and women, we need to behave like responsible men and women towards them, not like gangsters who extort "cuotas" from them for whatever reason. If we don't, the "cuota" they will make us pay later will be very high.