CEvery May 15 is commemorated in Mexico the Teachers’ Day. In celebration of this year; however, it must be understood that it should not and cannot be “one more”. That the anniversary should become a reason for serious reflection regarding education in Mexico, especially in the face of two events of the greatest relevance.
The first of them is that we are facing the imminent closure of the administration, and strictly speaking, the SEP has only 24 months of activities remaining within the framework of the regular school cycles, since it will have to deliver to the new administration, just two months after starting the 2024-2025 cycle.
The second is that we are facing a magisterium that has been under enormous pressure during the pandemic. What the teachers of Mexico have done, in this sense, has not been sufficiently recognized; Well, beyond the failures and serious public policy errors that have been made since the outbreak of the pandemic, the teaching staff was once again up to the challenge and managed to keep the complex and enormous national education system running.
Faced with these two determining variables, it is that the Government of the Republic must consider what is the route to the last third of the administration; how to consolidate what little and what is eroded; and how to solve the lags that accumulated during the pandemic, that is, how to manage to recover the generations that today face the severe impacts of the health and economic emergencies of the last two years. The pandemic has not finished going away, and the economic recovery is perceived not only distant but, above all, uncertain.
Until now, there is no official information regarding a comprehensive evaluation of what was done during the pandemic to determine the course to follow. Beyond the very few official messages, a comprehensive diagnosis of the state of the schools is lacking; of the new needs imposed by a still partial return to classes in some sectors, and above all, without being clear about the state of mental health of the teaching and administrative staff.
It is unknown, for example, if the SEP has taken the necessary measures to provide support to teachers who lost loved ones during the pandemic, and within the school community, how schools have been cared for and accompanied where one or several of their teachers and professors lost the battle against Covid-19.
Nor is it known whether there are similar accompaniment strategies for children and young people who are enrolled and who have lost loved ones, including their mothers and fathers. The data that we have in the country is very hard: there is talk of up to almost a million girls and boys orphaned by their mother or father, due to the consequences of the pandemic and the violence that has been suffered throughout the national territory for more than of a decade.
What must be understood is that this return that we are experiencing is not a simple return from the house to the schools. In this sense, María Elena Medina Mora, Director of the Faculty of Psychology at UNAM warns: the girls and boys have experienced very complex life processes in their homes: they saw and discovered things that normally, due to school hours, they did not even have idea that they existed or occurred in their homes.
Domestic violence grew abysmally, and that has affected the mental health of girls and boys. The average age of onset of depression and anxiety problems in Mexico today is seven years; that is, just the age at which girls and boys are in primary education, and beyond.
We know very little about the strategies of the SEP to guarantee the return to school of those children and adolescents who abandoned their studies during the pandemic, or who cut their school cycles short. Where are they? What are the dynamics and characteristics of their families? Do you have scholarships or can they be awarded? How to recover learning and skills not acquired?
What happened to the “new Mexican school”? What are your results? Where are the comprehensive evaluations? Why was a process of systematizing the experience of what was done during the pandemic not carried out, as UNESCO had suggested at the time to document what was happening in our country during the pandemic?
Carlos Mancera, an expert on educational issues, explains that the SEP’s budget has not really increased in recent years; and that although it is true that the resources allocated to scholarships have grown, this has been at the expense of the resources that were previously allocated to the improvement, expansion and conservation of school infrastructure. This means that the deterioration experienced in the last two years will be difficult to reverse in the coming months and years, if a significant budgetary effort is not made to guarantee that girls and boys attend decent schools, and that they are also work spaces in dignity for the teachers of Mexico.
The silence of the union organizations is also surprising. Above all, from the SNTE and the Coordinator. What do the Union and its Sections think of these issues? What is your diagnosis and what is your position and proposals for action? How to renew democratic union action to promote educational renewal in Mexico?
For this reason, given the complexity of this scenario, the proposal to reform the educational model that was presented for basic education by the Federal Government is of particular concern. Because without a diagnosis that tells us where we are in the points indicated here, it would be a very big mistake to start a reform process without having antecedents, for example, through a pilot program, that allows us to identify what the real possibilities of its implementation are. and what is the evidence that proves that it will be an effective and relevant model; that is to say, that this is effectively what the national educational system requires.
Fortunately, Mexico has a committed teaching profession; and surely, soon, it will show its face, as it always has, for the education of our children and young people. Meanwhile, it is time to recognize them and to say that without them, the country would have many more problems than the ones it already faces.