BY CARMEN ALOMÍA GUÍA, PROVIDENCE ASSOCIATE
Carmen Alomía Guía is the Coordinator of the Providence Associates in Peru. She teaches Spanish language and literature at a high school in El Progreso, Carabayllo.
Here in Peru the situation is complicated. I think the government is making the right decisions, but the big problem is poverty, the lack of respect for the rules by the citizens and our poor health system, which is not prepared to deal with what we are facing.
We started with a state of emergency and quarantine but in many parts people did not comply. This was often out of absolute necessity because they do not have a salary, but live on what they earn day by day as street vendors or casual labourers.
By closing down everything and taking care of only the essentials like medicine, food and security many were left without an income. In the face of this, the government gave a bonus to the families, but it did not reach everyone. There is solidarity among the people. The houses that do not have food to eat put up a white flag asking for help. The water, light and gas services are maintained. The government asked the companies to only incrementally increase what they charge throughout the year after the quarantine is lifted.
Education is another dilemma. The government proposed remote education, starting April 6th. We were going to start on March 16th. However, we came across the stark reality of having no means of connecting with the students. First, the registration system of our schools did not have phone numbers for all the students. Every teacher had to look for ways, usually by phone, to find the families. Others are without Internet connection as only a few have computers connected to the Internet. The teacher’s contact with the students has been difficult. Out of the 38 students in each of my classes, only 15 have access to a phone with a prepaid plan costing 6 soles for one day with Internet service. Therefore, we connect only by WhatsApp, once a week. Ahead of time we send an outline of a topic with simple directions, then we connect so that the students can ask questions and have the teacher clarify the topic and specify the one required activity. I have five 5th cycle sections each with 38 students, in total 190 students. In other words, we are accompanying only those with whom we make contact. Those we do not know about are the students that we cannot contact. It’s frustrating. The good thing is that the government has arranged to give 25-minute classes on television and radio once a week. The majority of students have access to television or radio. From there the teachers are able to reinforce the classes. The government also offers a ministry platform for education but of 38 students, only one has access.