Project Ecuador

Project Ecuador
Giving Hope and a Future

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Schools under threat

I first met little Ruth when her mother was expecting her tenth baby.  They made their way down to the health centre on the bumpy milk lorry, setting off early in the morning in order to make it to use before midday. 

Ruth´s mother,  now in her forties, suffered high blood pressure throughout her last pregnancy, and came to us for help.  "I live in a small shack on a farm," she told us.  "The owners let us live there in exchange for making sure no one comes to steal his cattle.  My husband milks the cows, and I look after our nine children.  My husband does not earn much for his work.  We can just about buy enough food for all of us, and I keep a few chickens.  We do not have any money left over to buy anything else.  The house is very small.  We all sleep in just two little rooms.  But at least we have a roof over our heads.  We have no land and nowhere else to go." 

After the birth of a healthy little girl I did not see Ruth and her family again for a while.  It was when I made a trip up to the village that I spotted Ruth playing with her friends outside the village school. 

To get to their village I had to drive along unmade tracks up the mountain side.  There are no buses except at the weekend.  It is very remote.  The school has had the same teacher for several years now.  When you enter the school the children all stand respectfully and I can see that the standard of discipline is high.  The one teacher teaches all the first to seventh year children.  He has about 20 children to teach each year. 

This school is a lifeline for the children who live on these remote farms.  They can walk there each day.  They can study and learn and have the opportunity to find their way out of poverty. 

Ruth now has a sponsor so that she can buy shoes to walk to school in, and the pens, books and paints she needs to be able to study. 

But her school is under threat.  The government has announced any school with less than 30 pupils will be closed. 

20 pupils is not many, but for each of these children the school and its teacher is the difference between continuing a life of hand to mouth exisitence, or of having the opportunity to learn to be a professional and earn a living wage. 

If the school is closed these families will not be able to send their children to school because they do not have the money to pay someone to drive them to the nearest school which takes some 30 minutes in a vehicle. 

I hope the government thinks carefully about the plight of these children, and not just of broad economics, when they take their decisions about the provision of teachers to remote and rural communities. 

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