ACAPULCO, Mexico – Three chalkboards, six volunteers, golden sand and the sea provide the backdrop for the Academia de la Playa (Beach Academy) in the Mexican Pacific resort city of Acapulco, a literacy project that teaches low-income people to read and exposes them to a second language.
“We support beach vendors, a lot of them can’t read or write. The children often can’t go to school or have difficulties with their homework,” the president and founder of the ProPoors organization, Jovita Cavigelli, told EFE on Teacher’s Day in Mexico.
The academy, created four months ago, was intended to help adults learn to read and write, but there has been a stronger response from children and young people, with 10 minors and six adults taking classes.
Eager to learn, the students meet under a tent on the beach for two hours, twice a week, a schedule that does not interfere with jobs or household finances.
“I would always see people working on the beach, on the Costera (the main tourist drag in Acapulco), and they seemed vulnerable. I was always thinking about how I could help them improve their situation,” Cavigelli said.
Cavigelli noticed the low literacy level in Acapulco’s marginal areas while volunteering after Hurricanes Ingrid and Manuel in 2013.
The educator decided to stay in the port city and leave her native Switzerland.
“This is something really beautiful because it’s a privilege to help. We can’t decide where we are born,” Cavigelli said.
Although the goal is to teach students to read and write, the academy also provides English lessons, math classes and environmental education, as well as classes for mothers and nutrition courses at a low cost.
A 2015 study found that 14 percent of those over the age of 15 in Guerrero were illiterate, a level that was 8.1 percent higher than in the rest of the country, according to the National Institute of Geography and Statistics.
One of the academy’s most outstanding students is Reyna Arcadia Sanchez, a 16-year-old indigenous high school student who sells crafts at the beach and is learning English while her mother learns to read.
“I feel good that I can learn something new. I learn something in every class,” Arcadia Sanchez said while practicing her English pronunciation.
Although she comes from a low-income family and has to find the time to study, work and help her mother, who has Type-2 diabetes, Arcadia Sanchez has not lost hope and dreams of being a forensic doctor.
A 2014 study found that 2.31 million people were living in poverty in Guerrero, accounting for 65.2 percent of the state’s population, and 868,100 of them lived in extreme poverty, according to the National Council for Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval).