Honduran teacher teaches migrant children online while waiting for asylum in the US

Matamoros.

In your kitchen, Alma Beatriz Serrano Ramírez He waves his blackboard in front of his cell phone camera, hoping Champion, Kimberly, Osval, and his other students will stay focused on the math lesson he’s giving.

Moments later, she is not moved by the arrival in the room of her daughter and her 2 and 10-year-old son, respectively, as she teaches the sound of letters.

“On Honduras I gave lessons to children. Nothing to do with this. In reality, I never imagined having such an experience (…). It’s really difficult, but as time goes by, you get used to it, “he told AFP after finishing his work.

This 38-year-old migrant dreamed of settling in the United States but, like many others, had to leave her meager luggage in Matamoros, a Mexican city of 500,000 inhabitants that is separated from the United States only by the Rio Grande, called Rio Grande on the side. American.

Some of his students live 90 kilometers from there, in a camp of 700 people erected in a few weeks in Reynosa, another city at the gates of the United States.

Developed by teleconference, the writing, math or yoga classes offered by the American association Sidewalk School are a rare comfort to the hundreds of children who live along the 2,500-kilometer border, from Tijuana (Pacific coast) to Matamoros ( near to Gulf of mexico).

The students and their parents, who hail from Honduras, Guatemala and Haiti, are among the countless refugees still flocking to the US border, convinced that President Joe Biden will let in whoever requests it, unlike the crackdown. from his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump.

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While their cases are reviewed by the US administration, the wait in cities, often at the hands of drug traffickers, can last for months.

Asylum seeker teachers

It is in this last city where everything began in 2018 for the Sidewalk School association. Its founder Felicia Rangel she was devastated there by the misery of about 20 migrants she encountered under a bridge after crossing the river that separates Matamoros from her Texas state city of Brownsville.

Although he does not speak Spanish (of a Mexican father and a mestizo mother, but she considers herself African-American), Rangel decided to help those he considers victims of Trump’s unjust anti-immigration policy.

Nothing was the same for this 42-year-old former teacher, a homemaker since 2010, after leaving Houston to follow her husband to Brownsville.

At first, “it was just a matter of entertaining the children and teaching them some things (…). But as more children arrived, it became clear that it was necessary to teach them because they were not studying,” explains Ana Gabriela Martínez Fajardo , 26, asylum seeker and teacher for the association in Matamoros.

Sidewalk School grows as migrants flock to Matamoros until they can’t all fit into a 3,000-person tent camp.

With the scourge of covid-19 in the region, Felicia Rangel and her partner Víctor Cavazos have bought 300 digital tablets so as not to abandon the 700 young people from 4 to 18 who are under their wing.

Very quickly, thanks to the partners, the lessons of the teachers, all asylum seekers and former teachers or educator assistants, began to bring their teaching activity to nine border cities.

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“Sadness and shame”

The virtual education it is good because it allows students with less education to catch up.

“It is a very complicated situation, full of sadness and shame. (…) An 8 or 9-year-old child should practically know how to multiply and divide (…). And most of these children do not succeed,” laments the teacher Ana Gabriela Martínez Fajardo.

“It was a problem when we were face to face in Matamoros because (these) children were leaving,” explains Felicia Rangel. From now on, camera off, they follow the lessons of the little ones.

This explains why, once in America, some parents continue these lessons instead of enrolling their children in public schools, something Rangel regrets.

In recent months, 17 of the 19 teachers have also moved to USA and now they teach from states like Kentucky, Michigan or Virginia.

This summer it will be two years since the last two teachers from the Mexican side have been waiting in Matamoros in the hope of crossing the border with their children.

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