In Mexico, school days are divided into two sessions, one for the morning and one for the afternoon. It’s at the discretion of the school as to which session a student enters. Veronica, one of our scholarship students, entered high school last August, and was placed in the afternoon class.
1.5 km (1 mile) from her home. Trudging up a steep hill through a short residential district and then along a lengthy, unlit dirt road in the pitch dark was her daily route until she safely arrived home at 10 pm.
Her mother anxiously spoke to the school requesting that Veronica be moved to the morning class but was told there was no room available. Each class already had their quota of 50 students to a lecture room!
Being worried about Veronica’s safety, I went to the school with a volunteer, Pily, to talk with the Vice-Principal. I felt it important to impress upon her that Veronica’s safety was at risk. The community where she lived was infested with drug, alcohol and sexual assault problems.
While the Vice-Principal was very compassionate to the issue, her hands were tied. She had a folder full of students who wanted to move to day school for health or other reasons. It occurred to me that this just wasn’t a safety issue for Veronica but an issue for every girl who gets out of school late at night and has to find her own way home.
The Vice-Principal suggested that Veronica move to another school. However, this school had the program that Veronica wanted to study. Her family would never have been able to afford the high tuition on their own and it was a privilege for our charity, through her sponsors, to be able to pay the enrolment so that Veronica could study the field that she loved in order to have the career that would bring her joy. I vetoed that option pretty quickly.
I then asked the Vice-Principal to whom I should speak at the school board level. She gave me a name but also assured me that they would then call her to see if there was space in the morning class. Apparently, lack of adequate classrooms and lack of teachers have been an ongoing issue for those in education.
It was starting to sink in that this was a much bigger issue than one girl’s safety. That perhaps we weren’t going to get Veronica moved immediately because there was nowhere to move her to until the school added more classes.
Not willing to give up the fight, I tried one last strategy. I asked, “What will it take for those education decision-makers to wake up? To realize that they are putting their quota of students in a class over the safety of girls who leave school late at night? Does a young girl like Veronica have to be kidnapped, raped or murdered for the schools to realize the risk of sending a young girl home so late at night? Mexico is one of the largest hubs of sexual trafficking and I don’t want Veronica to be another statistic.”
Interview With Veronica
Veronica: First, the school social worker called me to ask where I lived, if the bus drove near my place, what time I got home from school, my grade point average…I was very excited when they told me a couple of days later that I was being moved. I couldn’t believe that in one instance something could change so quickly. Honestly, I was really scared walking alone at night.
V: I want to study construction. I like to design things. My course is really the foundation to a career in civil engineering, which is the profession I want to study.
V: It’s a career. I have always imagined something in my mind and then I imagine it already constructed. I also like to draw.
V: My dad built most of it but I wanted him to shape the house in a rectangle.
V: Not right now because it’s cold and I’m lazy. I like to be in a warm house. Also my gloves tore. But I will return when it’s warmer.
V: I want to be a civil engineer and to be an example to show that everything’s possible. When you’re younger, you think everything is easy but as you get older you realize that maybe life isn’t so easy after all. When I was younger I didn’t feel everything is possible but now I do.
V: I just have to want it and then do something about it. I’ve been reading books about life, sadness, affection and teaching and these books inspire me. Everything I read has a message.
V: Things happen for a reason and never give up. In the novels I read, the character has a problem but the end result is never give up.
V: I’m sometimes on Facebook and chat with friends – only people I know. I sometimes go to movies – action or romantic movies.
V: To follow my dreams and never give up.
V: It’s something that’ll help you in your whole life, to have a career and to be an example for your own children so they can have an education.
V: Both another scholarship student, Magui, and I work together. It takes two of us because the kids are out of control. They want to be free and play but both Magui and I think it’s important the kids also learn important things. We teach them multiplication tables and how to add and subtract. We get about five or six kids around 7, 8, and 9 years and they don’t know their arithmetic. At the end we do jigsaw puzzles or something else that’s fun.
V: It has helped me a lot. It takes effort to stay in the program. It’s an excellent program because it gives me everything I need such as tuition and school supplies. My life would be a lot more difficult without this scholarship. I’m not sure if my parents could pay the tuition on their own and I don’t even know if my parents would have enough money for bus fare.