Schooling and Covid in El Salvador

~Pat McPhee

As we watch, with concern, our rising numbers of COVID cases here in B.C., we can’t help but compare with the stats coming out of El Salvador.

The tiny, impoverished country of 6.5 million souls is roughly two-thirds the size of Vancouver Island. Last week, B.C. (with a population of about 5 million) had just over 5,500 cases of COVID versus El Salvador’s confirmed cases of 25,600.

Despite their government’s three-month total lock-down at the beginning of the pandemic, the health care system collapsed weeks ago and people no longer go to the hospitals or for testing, but rather stay at home and try to recover there. And so, their numbers are likely much higher than those reported.

We recently received e-mails from Wendy Hernandez, staff person at FUNDAHMER (the organization that facilitates First’s sister community relationship), and from Adonay Miranda & Ismael Artiga, university students who live in El Triunfo.

They report that some people have been sick but are recovering at home and, so far, the majority are practicing safeguards and managing to stay well.

Students at every level will be finishing their school year, which runs from February through December, in a virtual way. This is an excerpt about the difficulties inherent in virtual schooling from Tim Muth’s blog, at www.elsalvadorperspectives.com :

“In a country where internet is not universal and most people access online content only over cell phones, the switch to virtual learning has been a challenge. A recent article from FOCOS TV reported that only 1 in 10 Salvadoran households have an internet-connected computer but 9 out of 10 have a cellphone that they now use for access to schooling . . . Most public school interaction between students & teachers occurs through WhatsApp.”

If you are interested in reading the entire article and related resources, it is on the above link dated August 25.

School-aged children and youth in rural El Triunfo are at an even greater disadvantage due to the lack of resources for computers, printers, and cellphone data plans, and poor signals and internet coverage.

In spite of those obstacles, Adonay, who is in his fourth year at the University of Central America (UCA) studying Economics, completed the first semester with good marks and has started his second term in July. He was sad, however, that some of the professors at UCA had died of COVID leaving “a huge void”