Guayaquil has never heard of school districts. Not only must all students – at both public and private schools – pay to take public transportation to and from school every day, but these high schools could be 1.5-2 hours away from their homes! Most high schools are located in the center of the city. What does this mean for students like those with whom Starfish works who live in the peripheries of the city? High transportation costs, and long commutes.
Another effect of no school districting – you’re not guaranteed a spot anywhere. March 15 marked the first official day for signs up for the 2012 school year that begins April 2. Meet Lili, the 15 year old sister of two Starfish scholars – Pamela and Arelisa. Lili and Pamela recently finished the equivalent of 9th grade at a school that only goes through 9th grade. This means they have to start at a new school. As if starting new wasn’t hard enough, it was 11 days before the start of classes and they still didn’t know where they would study or if they would even be accepted anywhere. Tuesday, March 20 Lili woke up at 4am to be at one high school by 6am. Luckily, she was one of the first 10 people in line, because even waking up at dawn sometimes does not guarantee you a good spot. Once arriving at the school, all were forced to wait until a representative of the school informs the crowd of how the process would be. After a few hours, Lili was informed that the director would arrive at 6pm. She considered this lucky since sometimes people must camp out overnight in order to just get a spot in line to possibly sign up at a high school. After a few hours Lili’s older sister came to help her ask the right questions – what documents would be required, what time would she have to be there, etc. Luckily Lili was able to secure her spot in line and leave to get lunch. When she returned around 4pm she waited until the director finally arrived at 6:30pm. The director took note of everyone’s names and phone numbers and said – “Don’t call – we’ll call you”. The following week they were going to do a random drawing to pick the names of the students who would be given spots to study in the school. Those who were selected would receive a call the following Tuesday, March 27.
Lili and Pamela were in limbo. There was a possibility that only one, or neither of them would be selected in this random drawing, so in the meantime while both of her parents are at work, Lili had to look for other high schools that were accepting new students this year. Even after waiting all day and following all the regulations, she was still not guaranteed a spot and wouldn’t know for another week which is 6 days before classes were originally scheduled to start on April 2.
Update: Lili and Pamela never received a phone call, but in the meantime were able to enroll at a smaller high school closer to their house. It is not very well known, but they are hopeful that they will receive a good education at this new school. Their first day of school is tomorrow!
Note: Entering in the equivalent of U.S. 7th grade and U.S. 10th grade are the hardest to secure a spot since many schools go through 6th or 9th grade and afterward their students must switch schools. This is the first year that you only have to sign up if you are switching schools. Before this year, a process similar to that which Lili is in the middle of was necessary for ALL students, EVERY YEAR, regardless of whether they changed schools or not.
Read more about changing education laws in Guayaquil.
–Jenn Zocco, The Starfish Foundation In-Country Representative