Friday, February 6, 2009

Teaching English in Mexico Part 2

Okay, where I work is not ordinary. It's an NGO that takes kids from one of Mexico City's poorest barrios--metal shacks, mud floors, no running water--and gives them a full day's education, access to health care, technology, English, etc. If you saw the kids, the smiles on their faces, the slicked back hair, the uniforms, your first thought wouldn't be, "Poor kids. They look so dirty and malnourished." Their school is bright, noisy, full of laughter, but those happy thoughts quickly fade as soon as you hear their stories. I'll recount the ones heard in just the past two days. A 1st grader was taken from his mother because she punished him as a toddler by dunking his head in buckets of water. A 3rd grade boy and his brother were placed in an orphanage because their mother pad-locked them up in a dark room for 3 days without food or water. A 4th grader is in therapy because her uncle rapes her. And the stories, unfortunately, aren't unique...whether here in Mexico or around the world. 

Poverty, lack of education, and substance abuse breeds such atrocities, and it's rampant in this country. Today, I read that Mexico is initiating an English program within 5,000 primary schools with the hopes of expanding it nationwide. In reflecting on my own job and seeing how sometimes teaching English to kids that often don't have a firm grasp of their own language and are struggling to just survive, I wonder if the government might be better off trying to build more schools so all kids can attend, working toward a longer school day, spending more money on teaching training, teacher salaries, early childhood education, etc. Teaching a second language in a global world is a worthy effort, but ensuring all kids can even step through the doors of a school each day is an even worthier one.

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