Little Veronica stands in front of a blackboard and says nothing. She is supposed to read aloud a short text written on the blackboard, it is her daily reading exercise. “You really don’t know how to read it? Or you just don’t want to?” – she does not answer and smiles innocently instead, hoping that this time her teacher will give up.
Veronica is at the the second grade of the primary school Jesús Trabajador. The kids here are like everywhere else: some are smart, some are lazy, some have problems with mathematics and all prefer to play instead of studying. But there is one big difference – after school they don’t go back home to their toys, they go to work. More than one third of the children at school work on the street. They sell sweets, sell tickets in the minibuses, work with their parents at the market or at the street foodstands. The younger ones go home to help their mother or take care of smaller brothers and sisters.
Jesús Trabajador is not a regular peruvian public school. It has been founded by MANTHOC, the organisation who fights for the rights of the working kids. It gives a chance of education to those that cannot attend the public school, for various reasons. Some of the pupils need a specific time schedule because of their work their, others have been expelled due to discipline problems. And what is true for all children, is that their parents just cannot afford the public school, which requires special set of clothes and books. One can easily imagine what kind of explosive mixture those kids form! They are super energetic and hiperactive, several have problems with violence. But at the same time they need a lot attention and this kind of emotional contact that is so often missing in their families. And, however unbelievable it may sound, they all love school and their teachers.
I never wanted to become a teacher. Ten years ago, when I was still during my physics studies, I promised myself that this was the one job I was never going to do. And yet here I am, my promise from old times broken. Every day I enter a class full of kids and try to convince them that mathematics and science can be fun. And guess what? I really enjoy it! (Kids seem to enjoy it too..) I think I started to discover my hidden passion for teaching. Taking into account the number of teachers in my family I’m afraid it might be genetic 😉