Education in danger: Drug cartel violence shuts Mexico’s schools

14/03/2020
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12:19
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Education in danger: Drug cartel violence shuts Mexico’s schools
View of a classroom at an abandoned school– Photo: Ariana Cubillos/AP

Education in danger: Drug cartel violence shuts Mexico’s schools

14/03/2020
12:19
Mexico City
Alexis Ortiz
-A +A
Between 2019 and 2020, schools in Mexico had to suspend classes at least 199 times

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Due to shootings between criminal groups, disputes between police officers and criminals, clandestine taps, the presence of cartels, the forced displacement of communities, highway blockades with burning vehicles, and other public security reasons, schools of different education levels have interrupted their activities at least 199 times between 2019 and 2020. In addition, 12 institutions have remained closed for up to seven years due to the same conditions.

A report analyzed by EL UNIVERSAL reveals that elementary schools have been the most affected by suspending their activities 104 times; junior high schools 51 times, preschools 49 times, high schools four times, and colleges three times.

The issue has taken place in at least eight states: Coahuila, Ciudad de México, Guerrero, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, and Tabasco.

The data shows that 199 school suspensions have been temporary while 10 institutions in Guerrero and two in Michoacán closed their doors definitely due to insecurity.

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Guanajuato is the state with most cases (146). The document shows that most schools stopped their classes “for the integrity of the education community over public security risks in the education center.”

Likewise, in some cases classes were interrupted because the roads were blocked by security elements or by the request of parents for the safety of their children.

The second state with most cases of this kind is Guerrero with 27. The report adds that in the José María Izazaga municipality, the Valentín Gómez Garíz elementary school has been closed for seven years due to “mass murder.”

Likewise, in the municipalities of Zirándaro, Coyuca de Catalán, Petatlán, Pedro Ascencio de Alquisiras, and Zihuatanejo de Azueta, there are nine elementary schools that have been close between one and three years due to insecurity or to the lack of inhabitants and students because of it. In the rest of the cases in Guerrero, elementary schools have suspended their classes between one day and two school terms for the same reasons, as well as for the lack of transport to move because of violence.

Michoacán suffers from a similar situation. In this state, there are 17 junior high schools with no operation, two of them located in the municipalities of Coalcomán and Apatzingán. The document shows that between 2016 and 2017, both institutions stopped working “because the community left the area out of fear of the insecurity.”

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In the rest of the cases, Michoacán’s junior high school stopped their classes due to highway blockades and the burning of vehicles, in addition to threats and disputes between organized crime groups.

In the case of Puebla, 10 schools have interrupted their activities due to disputes, shootings, the kidnapping of teachers, phone extortions, the presence of armed men, as well as disputes between communities.

In Coahuila, four elementary schools and one junior high had to stop their activities due to shootings, such as the one that took place inside the Colegio Cervantes last January 10 in Torreón, which left one teacher murdered and one boy who killed himself after performing the attack.

In the cases of San Luis Potosí, Tabasco, and Mexico City, there are six schools that stopped all their education activities temporarily for reasons linked to insecurity.

For instance, in the case of Tabasco, the document explains that once, a school had to remain closed because there were armed persons in the community and that it suspended its activities another time “because there was a poster in the community threatening teachers and students, reason why parents decided not to send their children to school.”

Meanwhile, in San Luis Potosí, school activities stopped at the Santo Domingo municipality since there were violent events in the city hall as well as the murder of a whole family, so parents decided not to send their children to school.

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Lost generations
Experts in childhood say it is unfortunate that violence in Mexico has reached schools and the minors who study there for that could risk their future or the insecurity conditions could cause psychological damage.

Juan Martín Pérez, director of the Network for Children’s Rights (Redim), express that, although it is a good choice to suspend classes when the school community is in danger, the problem becomes worse if authorities do not take care properly of the violence issue.

“Schools are jeopardized by the dispute of criminal groups over land control. It’s important for authorities to take measures not only to protect the life and integrity of minors but also to develop actions so that education programs are not altered,” said Martín Pérez.

The expert said that the suspension of school activities “creates uncertainty and lack of trust in children because they are not sure if they are going to study in a place where they are protected.”

He added that this problem must be solved on an interinstitutional basis and by the three levels of the government, adding that communities must also protect minors through the denounce of those responsible for the crimes.

Furthermore, the expert also talked about the armed children in Chilapa, Guerrero who are allegedly part of the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC).

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In this regard, he mentioned that it is an example of how violence has deprived children of the possibility of attending school so as to face it.

For her part, Diohema Anlleu, director of incidence of the Juconi Foundation, made a call to prevent violence near schools. She asserted that in Michoacán and Guerrero, there are lost generations of students who had to abandon their studies because schools close definitely.

“Closing a school can affect the cognitive development of a child, a fundamental process when they are between six and 12 years old. Other problems are that schools can take care of children while parents work, so closing a school is an extreme measure and says a lot about the social tissue,” asserted Anlleu.

She considered that although most schools only close temporarily, this has the same negative effect on minors.

“Children need a safe, constant space that gives them the calm to study. When a school closes once, it’s confusing but when two do it it means there’s a real problem,” she expressed.

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Although the specialist recognized the Executive and Legislative powers are taking measures to improve the quality of life of the youngest population in Mexico, she mentioned that interrupting school activities due to violence is an issue that has not been sufficiently addressed.

On this issue, Rosario Alfaro, director of the Guardians organization and speaker of the First Childhood Pact, insisted on the psychological impact minors can experiment due to insecurity.

She also asserted that in 2012 there was a situation of this kind “In a school in Coahuila, we were not able to give classes because it had been closed because of nearby shootings. For a week, there were two guardians and they were not able to perform their job because violence is king. It’s urgent for authorities to take care of the problem”

Although for this report only eight Mexican states gave information about the times they have had to cancel their classes, a review made by EL UNIVERSAL reveals that this problem is present in other states.

For instance, in Culiacán, Sinaloa, during October, authorities tried to arrest Ovidio Guzmán, son of Joaquín “El Chapo Guzmán,” but due to the shootings that took place, classes were suspended. Media outlets have given dozens of examples like this that show the insecurity experienced by minors in Mexico.

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