How does poverty hinder education in Mexico? by Sofia Peltola

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Photo: Petra Heikkilä

In Mexico, according to INEGI (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía) in 2010, there were 19.8 million people aged 6 to 14, and 18.7 million of them had access to education. So, there were still 1.1 million children who did not attend school even though in the Mexican Constitution, education is declared to be compulsory for everyone. Elementary education is also declared to be free of charge, but this is not always the reality. In order to attend school, children must have school uniforms and other material, such as notebooks and pencils. According to the statistics of 2013, 45.5% of Mexico’s population, meaning 53.3 million people, live in poverty. Thus, there are many poor families who have difficulty in affording the necessary material. The poor parents face also indirect costs when sending a child to school because they usually lose a source of labor.

Financial barriers are not the only issues that prevent the poor children from having access to education. Machismo, the supreme valuation of the masculine over the feminine, remains still very common in the Mexican culture, and it hinders the girls’ access to school. Mexico’s security problem is another issue that touches especially the poor people who must live in the dangerous zones of the cities. Since the violence and drug traffickers confrontations risk the lives of the innocent people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, parents may not be willing to let their children go to school.

Social exclusion, a state of separation of social relations and institutions, also hinders education. Firstly, it is complicated for the poor living in rural areas or in the outskirts of the cities to have access to school simply because they live so far away from it. If the poor children manage to go to school, they can be victims of externalization from groups of other children for not belonging to the same social class as the majority of children. Besides social exclusion, the poor quality of teaching is also likely to hamper the education of the children; they may have difficulties in learning and feel unmotivated.

Malnutrition is another factor that hinders the learning process. Because of inadequate caloric and/or vitamin intake, the children may suffer from anemia and feel too tired to concentrate in the classes. They might be too fatigued to even go to school. The lack of important nutritive ingredients hampers also concentration. In Mexico, the poor often lack potable water, and as a consequence, they suffer from gastrointestinal infections and skin illnesses. There are people who might not have any kind of water, thus, it is complicated to maintain a good hygiene in order to go to school.

On the whole, if the basic needs, such as satisfying the hunger, are not fulfilled, it is difficult to dedicate one’s time to education. Indeed, the poor in Mexico are living under very rough circumstances, and it clearly hinders the education of the children.