School by day and bar by night

Coco Bongo doubles as a school in Juchitán since thousands of children haven't resumed classes since the earthquake

Coco Bongo Family restaurant & bar -Photo by EFE
English 08/11/2017 12:29 Juchitán, Oaxaca EFE Actualizada 12:31
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A bar by night and a school by day – that's how this business operates in Juchitán, Oaxaca, after the September 7 earthquake damaged over 1,140 schools in the region and left thousands of children homeless.

Coco Bongo, the bar which doubles as school, started classes with 18 students and now has 35 children between the ages of 5 and 12, who take classes in the yard.

The bar became a school a month after an 8.2 magnitude earthquake shook the south of the country.

Carlos Antonio López, the owner, admits it was his wife, Nelmi Roselis Trejo, who came up with the idea because she was concerned about their two children doing nothing but watch television and play, and having too much free time in their hands.

“At first, she wanted to hire teachers for the kids, and then she said [the teachers] could help other children as well who hadn't returned to school,” Mr. López recounts.

“We asked neighbors for their support, we posted vacancies for teaching jobs on the Internet and we had responses. A month after the earthquake we were already working with them, we had room enough, chairs, tables, and the will to help,” said Trejo, who runs the school and makes breakfast for the children, whose parents pay a fee of $ 5 Mexican pesos ($0.26 USD) per student.

The “classroom” is an open space of 10x8 meters, with a metal decking roof and two concrete walls. It's surrounded by decorative plants and has a blackboard, 30 chairs, and 10 tables. Further along the yard are the toilets and the kitchen.

Whether previously enrolled in public or private institutions, it matters little, considering the children remain without classes two months after their schools crumbled.

Guadalupe García, mother of two girls of 10 and 11, says they are still waiting for the notification of when the kids can resume classes again at the provisional classrooms being built by the federal government. Until then, she will continue taking her daughters to Coco Bongo.

Despite the initiative has been heavily criticized, the owner of the bar remains firm: “We help with what we have. We give our support and money, because at 5 pesos per kid for breakfast it's obviously not enough. But we've committed to this and we will keep going.”

According to Mr. López, they have a basic education teacher, an English teacher, a psychologist, and an arts teacher, whom they want to continue hiring after the emergency is over because they're thinking about starting a new project: offer lessons of art, music, dance and remedial lessons for students falling behind their grades.

Evelyn Carrasco, the psychologists, explains the tragedy “is a hard process for the children and we have to keep their minds working.”

She adds it's important to show the children life must go on and they need to “get up and keep fighting.” A view shared by all the students here.


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