In the poverty-stricken mountains of southern Mexico, children can only dream of having the internet or television access that would allow them to join millions of others following distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic.
Children across the country began a new school year last month with remote learning via television, a move aimed at curbing the spread of the disease in a country that has reported 73,000 COVID-19 deaths – the fourth-highest tally in the world.
But in the homes of San Miguel Amoltepec Viejo, a windswept village in one of the country’s poorest regions, there are no such modern-day luxuries.
The outbreak’s impact on Indigenous children’s access to education is just the latest chapter in a long history of marginalisation of the Indigenous communities of Mexico.
“There are no computers, there’s no internet, there’s no television signal and the electricity goes out when it rains,” said teacher Jaime Arriaga.
When he could teach face-to-face classes, Arriaga stayed all week in the remote area to avoid the more than two-hour drive along a winding, sometimes unpaved road from the region’s main city, Tlapa.
Today, the 33-year-old visits every two weeks to bring educational material and meet parents in the community perched 3,000 metres (nearly 10,000 feet) above sea level in Guerrero state.
“We have no other way,” he said.
Arriaga watched from the doorway as 25-year-old Natalia Vazquez helped her daughter Viridiana do her schoolwork in their modest home.
Arriaga’s classroom in San Miguel, where 22 children used to study, now serves as a warehouse or improvised dining room.
Instead, Celso Santiago’s three children study in their house with wooden walls and an earthen floor.
The 29-year-old farmer said he would try to make sure his children did not fall behind, but he worried it would be difficult.
“We have jobs and I can’t be taking care of the children,” he said. “If they couldn’t learn much from what the teacher taught before, now we’re going to be worse off with this pandemic.”
Illiteracy among adults makes homeschooling an even bigger challenge, Santiago said.
“We’re in an area that’s highly marginalised and falling behind in education because many parents don’t even know how to read or write,” he said.