Since the beginning of the “revolution,” un-paid student labor was gradually turned to in tackling difficult agricultural tasks. This is also said to have an educational purpose whereby study is linked to work.
Nevertheless, the project is alienating and generates rejection among youth toward the countryside and agriculture, just the opposite of what is supposedly sought.
Why alienating? They are many the reasons.
For example, the fruit of the youngsters’ labor is completely controlled by the local bureaucracy. The students can decide nothing about what comes from their hands, and they often receive only a meager helping on their daily plate of the very same product they harvested. How do the kids solve this dilemma? With a personal self-management system that some would call theft.
It is also alienating because the work relation between the students and the field is established through a fixed numeric quota, without their consent, and that translates itself into long furrows of boring and monotonous work.
Of course no concern or active interest in agricultural questions is born in anyone in this way; on the contrary, the youth mistreat the crops, the land and the work tools out of revenge or apathy, or to work the least amount possible.
It also goes without saying that the activities carried out in the field have no relation to the subjects they are taught in school. Upon their return to the classroom, they have to be reintroduced to their coursework that has been reduced due to the time that their torment in the field lasted (generally a month). This is a serious problem for their education, which is already poor.
No objective is in fact served. The produce and instruments wind up damaged, the kids get sick (the hygienic-sanitary conditions are often sub-standard), output is low, the educational process is interrupted, etc.
Therefore, what is the objective of the “school in the country”? For me it is an ideological commitment that some ideologues established with others. This is the least macabre answer I can come up with.
A month after starting to work as a teacher at Mantilla Senior High, there began the mass exodus from the school to the countryside. If I had known it before they hired me I would have turned around and left, but they were smart.
When the director officially informed me of my imminent departure, I squared off with her, willing to accept the consequences of my negative attitude. But then she told me that my co-workers would have to shoulder an extra load due to my absence, so I gave in – though not without bitterness.
I just got back, and I’m walking around stressed out, irritated, annoyed and with a tremendous desire to throw in the towel to the Ministry of Education. But again, there are hardly any teachers in the school and I don’t want to leave them adrift.
Later on I’ll publish a kind of diary here about my time in the “School in the Country.”