Conrad Fox

journalism, programming, soccer and robotics

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Old train wagon among Mexico State's top performing classrooms

Sept. 9, 2015

Twenty-eight students in the community of San Bartolo, Mexico State, go to school in an old train wagon. Four grades are taught together in the Adolfo Lopez Mateos school, where the washrooms are makeshift, and there is not enough running water. Despite the conditions, the school scored the second highest ranking in the state for academic achievement last year.

"The kids love it," principal Jaime Mayolo Contreras Parra told China Central Television. "They say when they are studying it's like they are dreaming they are studying and travelling."

The school is the last of its kind in Mexico, a system of portable classrooms created in the 1920s that took teachers into remote rural regions, and followed migrant agricultural workers around the country to teach their children during the harvest season. By the 1990s, most of these classrooms had disappeared. The Adolfo Lopez Mateos no longer moves and now serves families in a neighin a region of the country classified as "the poorest of the poor" by the National Crusade Against Hunger. Many of the families live in abandoned rail cars themselves.

According to Sin Embargo, which quotes El Pais and China Central Television, the school receives little aid from the government. Money for school lunches has not been disbursed since April. "We're an unusual school but it seems like the Education Department doesn't know it," said the schools director Jaime Mayolo Contreras Parra. "They sent us computers, but where am I going to put them?"

The teacher says he gets no help from the government and spends weekends filling in forms and other administrative duties. But he says he doesn't want to retire. "I know if I go, they'll close it. I don't want to see that. I'd rather die first."

According to the news sources, the federal government is pushing to evict neighbours from the wagons and close the school.

Source: Sin Embargo



For 15 years, Conrad lived in Mexico, where he worked as a freelance radio and print journalist. His work took him into a minefield, a gunfight, a dugout canoe and the homes of many fascinating, brave and generous people. He is also an avid teacher and has led classes in radio, robotics, soccer, physics and anthropology in a diversity of places, including office towers, lecture halls, fields and palm thatched huts.