Crisis in Venezuela: visit to a “little school” in El Petare for children in pandemic

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Managed by evangelicals, it was created to meet the needs of children without face-to-face classes.

“Profe, I’m done!” Is heard in the little school run by evangelicals that Iris improvised at her home in a favela in Venezuela. Shelter students without face-to-face classes due to quarantine and search fill a void serious educational pre-pandemic.

While vallenato songs are playing on the street, teenagers solve equations where Iris Pellicer decided to “open a school” on the ground floor of her house in Petare, at the end of a steep staircase.

“We were worried and wanted to rescue most” of the boys, he explains. Together with an evangelical pastor and his daughter, “we give them their daily classes” and when they finish, they pray and read the Bible, explains Pellicer, a 52-year-old law student.

With mask of cloth, about 17 children attend the small space that the community baptized as the “Little school of Iris”, which arose in May in that neighborhood of about 400,000 inhabitants, of crowded houses made of blocks and zinc roofs.

Since March, academic activities have been suspended by the quarantine, still in force, causing “excessive confusion” and “stress” in teachers and students, according to Cecodap, an organization that defends the rights of children and adolescents.

Constants power outages and precarious telecommunications and the internet have consolidated school “exclusion” during the pandemic, explains Fernando Pereira, founder of Cecodap.

“The gap is widening,” he points out, between private and public centers, which represent 80% in Venezuela, of an enrollment of 8.2 million students in initial and basic education.

Therefore, “the conditions are set for initiatives to flourish” in popular areas, where evangelical Christianity has permeated, says Pereira, also being an opportunity to “spread their beliefs” through education.

The new school year in Venezuela began on September 16 without face-to-face classes for the remainder of the year. Meanwhile, the government promotes online lessons and “teleclasses” and set up a channel to broadcast educational videos.

The closing of the year 2019-2020 passed with classes by the Venezuelan government of Television (VTV). For Andrea Briceño, with a 6-year-old, those classes were a “disaster.”

“First they passed primary school, then high school (…), the children were like ‘aha, then? We didn’t understand'”, recalls Briceño, 23-year-old nutritionist.

No computer, They relied on WhatsApp to send and receive tasks that left their son Daniel tired. But in a few months, he says, he learned to read and multiply at “Iris’s little school.”

“At first we were a little scared by the virus”, but “we know that we are with God”, Iris confides, that requires chinstraps, of mandatory use in the country of 30 million inhabitants, where according to official figures there are 68,453 infections and 564 deaths.

The opposition and organizations like Human Rights Watch question those numbers, considering them much worse.

With a math book in hand, Tito Matheus, a 51-year-old pastor, considers that since things do not “work very well”, it is necessary to do them “by oneself.”

Iris remembers saying to Tito during a visit to the temple: “Look, I have that space unoccupied, what do you think?”

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