MATAMOROS, Mexico – Jose Elias Canis is one of the thousands of minors crossing Mexico from Central America hoping to live the American dream in the United States, though that means cutting short his education for an unpredictable length of time.
Jose, who has lived for over two months in the House of the Migrant in Matamoros, a border city in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, told EFE that he liked his school, but also that his mother, Maria Canis, decided to get back together with her husband in the United States. She had, of course, no idea what would happen to her son’s education.
“Yes, he was in the third grade at elementary school. Now I don’t know if he can study here,” said Canis, who is aware of the needs of her 8-year-old son, but hopes that both will be granted political asylum so she can give him a better future.
Migration has increased in Mexico since October 2018, when caravans with thousands of migrants, mostly Central Americans, started crossing the country to get to the United States.
Very many were children or teens. The National Migration Institute (INM) reports that from January to Sept. 5 this year, 138,491 migrants, of whom 43,598 – 31.5 percent – were “little girls, boys and teenagers,” appeared before the immigration authorities.
In such a situation, Matamoros Education Secretary Alejandro Villafañez Zamudio tried to implement a program that would serve children and teenagers, but said the parents showed little interest in it because, above all, they were preoccupied by their meetings with US authorities to obtain political asylum.
“We find there are elementary-school kids who haven’t studied for years, youngsters who can’t read. What we try to do is help them with certain activities that are fun and also as educational as possible, but this really hasn’t gone anywhere due to the resistance of the parents,” Villafañez said.
Other migrants said that some time ago they took their kids out of school because they lacked the money.
CIVIL SOCIETY TO THE RESCUE
Elisa Cloter’s luck has been different. She told EFE that she arrived with her two boys and a girl to the northern Mexican city of Monterrey three months after leaving La Ceiba on the Honduran Caribbean due to the danger signified by the violent protests against President Juan Orlando Hernandez that even affected the schools.
Her children, Heiker, 6, and the twins Ayksa and Josue, 7, looked excited at the chance offered by the Casa INDI, a hostel that accepted poor people and migrants.
There, besides meals and shelter, it teaches English and Spanish lessons while offering a program to reinsert minors into school.
“A young woman came along and began to teach them vowels and all that. In that respect they’re really helping me, thank God. That’s what is also important, not just the meals. They also teach,” Cloter said.
The priest Fr. Felipe de Jesus Sanchez Gallegos, founder of the Casa INDI, agrees with her. He emphasizes the importance of integrating migrants into society, especially the children, whom he also provides with school transport, uniforms, school supplies and backpacks.
“It’s important because we’re not talking about migration but about humanism and humanity. No one is exempt from suffering misfortunes,” the priest said.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said on multiple occasions that he will protect the human rights of all migrants.
Last June 14 he promised “all my support for the children” of migrant families, going so far as to offer them naturalization as Mexicans “if they need it,” when asked whether the Mexican government would be willing to provide their education.
Furthermore, the Comprehensive Family Development System (SIF), jointly with UNICEF, presented on July 31 the “Model of Alternative Care for Migrant Children and Adolescents Seeking Asylum and Are Sheltered in Mexico.”
The protocol, which was in its initial phase, said “it is necessary” to work “closely” with the Public Education Secretariat (SEP) for the “insertion into the formal education system” of unaccompanied girls, boys and adolescents.”