Autonomous Education in ’16 de Febrero’

“The official teachers (in the government school) were not interested, they often only turned up once or twice a week. So we decided to form the autonomous school.”

In February 2007 members of Scotland’s zapatista solidarity groups visited the four autonomous schools in our twinned autonomous municipality, ’16 de Febrero’. The schools are all staffed by young indigenous “education promoters”, who have graduated from the autonomous secondary school at the zapatista centre of Oventik. The equivalent of teachers, the education promoters work voluntarily to create a different kind of education.

“The education promoters work voluntarily. They are not working for a wage or for personal interests, they are acting on their conscience, teaching for the sake of the community.”

“Here we share learning and learn from each other, it’s not like the promoters know everything. Even the youngest child can contribute.”

“Our Own Culture”

“The difference between the government schools and the autonomous schools is that in our schools we are working for our brothers. The government imposes education designed for the rich, it imposes its own ideas. It imposes another language. We develop our own language, our own culture.”

In the autonomous schools, education is carried out in both spanish and in the local indigenous language, in most cases in ’16 de Febrero’ this is Tzotzil.

Building Education

The autonomous schools are built by the members of the communities getting together and actually constructing the buildings themselves, voluntarily.

All four schools are however small and basic, and the communities want to build more adequate classrooms and schools.

One community have identified land where a new school could be built, and told us : “We need a bigger school, where the children can grow up well to go forward in their lives and in the struggle. We are poor, we don’t have the resources to build a bigger school. But we hope that one day with your help our education can improve and go forward.”

When we visited the schools we took with us jotters and pencils for every child, which we bought with money raised by a special appeal by the Edinburgh solidarity group. This basic solidarity is really important.

Children with jotters and pencils supplied from donations raised by Scotland’s solidarity groups

At more than one school the local people told us how children were discouraged and sometimes left the school when their parents couldn’t afford to buy them jotters or pencils, and the school had no resources to supply the educational materials itself. At the same time there are great success stories, some children succeed in finishing 6th Grade, and progress to the autonomous secondary school at Oventik.

Taking Education Forward

“We are taking autonomous education forward. But we have a lot of things we lack and need at our school.

“We don’t have a proper school, we don’t have adequate blackboards, we don’t have coloured pens, we need a dictionary, we need a kitchen and a dormitory for the education promoters, at present we are being lent the use of somebody’s house. We don’t have proper seats and desks in the school.”

As the photo below shows, both girls and boys attend the zapatista schools. Before the zapatista women started to organise themselves to win more equality, traditional patriarchal values often excluded girls from education.

Autonomous Municipality ’16 de Febrero’ have identified education as one of their priorities, and are asking us, as their twins, to provide solidarity with their autonomous schools. We invite you to participate with us in this important task.

The final word goes to the children…

The Children Speak

We asked the children what things they liked to do best:

“I like everything”

“I like to study”

“I like sports”

“I like to sing and play”

“I like doing paintings of Marcos”

“I like the story of Miguel Hidalgo”

“I like the story of Emiliano Zapata”

We asked the children what things they need in the school:

“It’s difficult to study because we don’t have proper seats or furniture for the school”

“We don’t have proper materials for education, like notebooks and pencils, this makes it difficult”

“I like to draw but we don’t have coloured pencils”

How To Donate

Your donations will go directly to help the autonomous schools and clinic of ’16 de Febrero’.

Pay money directly into our bank account:

Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group
Clydesdale Bank
Sort Code: 82-45-05
Account: 60129411

Or send a cheque, made out to ‘EDINBURGH CHIAPAS SOLIDARITY GROUP’, to:

Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group
c/o ACE
17 West Montgomery Place

In all cases please make sure to email to say the amount you have donated, how, and when.

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