As we begin thinking about the end of this school year and the beginning of the next, we have many anxious parents. Since the beginning of the school in Cuesta Arena, we have decided to focus all of our efforts on education. This decision came from seeing the difference the school has made in the community. The problem now comes when the parents of our six graduates must enroll their children in public school. There are two schools they can choose from. The closest school is in Los Almacigos, the next town over. Approximately a 5 kilometer walk or 5 pesos for transportation. The problem I am told with this school is that the children will finish 8th grade and not know how to read. If they actually want to learn anything while going to school for 8 years, they must go to the public school in Batey 1. This is an hour walk or 25 pesos per day in transportation. Once you have finished 8th grade, the closest high school is in La Canela (prob at least 10 kilometers away) and you must have your birth certificate to enter.
Birth Certificates, much like in states essentially prove your existence. Like in the states, it is difficult to get. In the states, you have have to show social security card and photo id (which is fine if you have those but if you have none of the above it is another problem all together). Here you must have both parents claim you but more specifically the mother. But what happens when you have an 8th grader, wanting to go to high school, who doesn’t have a birth certificate, whose mother doesn’t have a birth certificate, and those grandparents have died??? Where do you start when you have generations of people who do not have birth certificates, regardless if they were born in a hospital or not! We have worked on this problem before and found it incredibly complicated and costly. Without outside help, there are many people that can not “prove their existence” due to the cost, the transportation needed, and the knowledge of the system to maneuver through it. The social worker in me sees a person in their environment that is trapped. It is situations like this that discount anyone that has ever said you can leave poverty if you wanted to. Don’t get me wrong, there are people in Cuesta Arena that do not have birth certificates more or less by choice or failure to act when they should have. This is another problem all together. We have to help those that want the change.
We know that with education, a person can change so much in their life, if they so desire. But they have to have the right to education! The right to prove their existence by a simple paper that so many of us take for granted!