Teacher and student targets in central America, Mexico

| August 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

Schoolteachers have become targets in strife-ridden El Salvador, with over 27 of them murdered over the last few months. Hundreds more have been kidnapped and their families extorted by rival gangs. Teachers make easy pawns, and have lost their lives sometimes for the most seemingly paltry of reasons, such as students failing grades.

Yet below the surface, the stories are heartbreaking and complex. Gangs recruit members from student cohorts, even in primary schools. Teachers are unable to protect them, often because parents are gang members themselves, or are under pressure from thugs. Called the ‘maras’, these parents are forced to extract protection money – ‘la renta’ – from teachers and school administrators to pass on to, in many cases, more than one gang at a time.

Many teachers keep their fears to themselves rather than risk the lives of their families. Increasingly, their students are fleeing the country to join the exodus of children seeking safety in the US. But, in Mexico, where asylum-seekers gather to cross into Texas, life is even more dangerous. The country is in the grip of powerful drug cartels and dead bodies in the street are a common sight for schoolchildren. However, those who seek to leave, say, Tamaulipas – a state just over the Texas border that has suffered some of the worst violence in the country, including massacres, firefights, car bombings and decapitations – are often turned away by US border officials.

Those left behind in El Salvador are growing bolder in their protest against the power of gangs such as the notorious Mara Salvatrucha. They are calling on communities to honour the memories of the fallen educators, such as principal Raul Antonio Parada, who was murdered in his classroom in front of students just months before his retirement – ostensibly because of his high academic expectations and strict discipline.

And, in April, Jose Aquiles, an English and social studies teacher and passionate soccer coach in rural Santa Lucia in western El Salvador, was found dismembered and buried in a shallow grave. Says the online news network Global Post: “His eighth graders sobbed and refused to enter his classroom. At his funeral, days later, hundreds filled the streets and thronged his casket, which was closed because of the damage to his body.”

Category: Spring 2014

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News posts added for Independent Education by Global Latitude DMA

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