There is much dinner-table chatter these days about the role of schools in the community. Yet you may be forgiven for thinking that the reality on the ground is that often schools do not fulfil this role at all. Well, here is one example where they do.
These parents of children at a primary school in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico are not rich, but they are happy. Why? Because they been able to get some money to repair the school building.
I am here in Mexico leading an OECD review on Mexico’s Better Schools Programme. This programme targets the schools within the basic education sector that are in the worst condition and in urgent need of repair. I will not particularly comment on it as we have yet to publish our report. But it has been a privilege to meet many people, particularly parents but also teachers, students and children in many schools across the country, some of whom are from the poorer sections of society.
For them the school is critically important because it offers their children a chance. The extent to which communities care about the school is illustrated by the amount of time and, proportionally the amount of their own money that people including the parents can scrape together, to carry out basic maintenance and repairs, if they cannot get it elsewhere.
They will do anything to support the school, whether it is painting the buildings, minding the children or battling with authorities to get much needed funding for urgent repairs. The school is the hub of many of the communities that are buried deep in the countryside well away from towns.
They see the importance of the link between the quality of the physical learning environment and education and learning.
One parent told me how important education is for her children because with it they would get a good job and that they needed decent school buildings, at least that was the jist . It must be said that my Spanish is not up to much and my Mayan, which some of these indigenous people speak, even less so. Whatever, the point was that the school offers hope!