The day started early. Go to the mountains to load cisco, take care of the cows, do the housework, go to the laundries or take care of the younger siblings. There was no time for more, not even to go to school to learn to read and write. You had to contribute to the house, and it was they, the women, who had to do it. They weren’t going to need to know how to read or write, for that they already had their brothers, who did go to school, “they had to go to the barracks and they needed it”, or their husbands or parents. They grew up taking care of everything and everyone, signing documents with a fingerprint smudged in blue ink, papers, bank accounts or records, in which they did not know what it said. Many of these women, 65% of the nearly 5,000 people who attend Adult Education Centers (CEPA), have found in this system the opportunity to exercise a right to which they did not have access, that of universal education.
In Roque Negro there is one of the three Adult Action Units (UAPA) that are distributed throughout the Anaga Rural Park. A dozen women have been training there for years with the aim of learning to read and write. It’s half past three in the afternoon. María Dolores, Adoración and Juana are already in their places waiting for the teacher who is busy preparing the class, the first after the Christmas holidays. Normally, the class of Maribel Alonso, the teacher, usually has between eight and 10 students, but today, there will only be four, with the addition of Faustina, or Carolina as everyone in Roque Negro knows her, who arrives a little later.
Pencils, notebooks and Christmas homework on the table. These “brave” as defined by their teacher, all over 60 years old, meet twice a week to make word search puzzles, write sentences in the notebooks that the teacher prepares for them or do cognitive stimulation exercises, but also go out to the outside with excursions to the environment that they know so well. “This is a place where they not only come to learn, they also socialize, we cannot forget that they live in a place that is far away from everything,” explains Maribel. “They (the men) socialize at the bar, they do it here,” adds the teacher.
Dolores says, who has been in school for the longest years, who already defends herself by reading and writing, and like the rest, she couldn’t go to school when she played. “The woman was to work, that’s what my mother told me, and that the men did always go to class, because they needed it for the barracks.” She has worked hard all her life, single and with a child, she finds a way to disconnect during this class time. Now, “if a letter arrives I no longer have to go to the neighbor to find out what it says, and nobody has to know what they send me.”
Next to Dolores, Adoration. “When I separated I was able to come, because before they told me that pigs don’t learn to read and write. I already know how to put my name”, explains this woman, mother of six children, proud of what she has achieved. “I was born in El Batán -he continues- and my parents didn’t let me go to school. The teacher went to find them to go in the morning or in the afternoon and they wouldn’t let me. My sister went both times. One day I ran away, and when I came back what I found was a fuck”. When asked why her parents didn’t let her go to school, she answered naturally that because “she had to take care of the goats, the cows, the pigs…”.
Juana has also been in school for more than six years. With three children, like the rest he had to work taking care of the cattle, loading cisco, or going to the laundries to wash clothes. “The only thing I’ve learned is to put my name,” he admits, while the teacher explains one of the memory exercises he has to do, which consists of identifying the trees on a page among several objects and putting the name next to it. number.
While Juana does this exercise, Adoración is making an alphabet soup. “I can put the letters, although I still do not know what they say”, that is his next goal.
Carolina is the last to join. “It’s a machine doing numbers and solving problems,” the teacher compliments her, but she plays it down. “I guess since I loaded a lot of cisco and took out a lot of accounts, that’s why I’m not too bad at it,” he ends up admitting. She did not have the opportunity to go to school as a child. “There were also no schools nearby. There was a secondary school in the Summit, and the summit workers would throw stones at us when we went, so we had to go back,” recalls Carolina, mother of two children and grandmother of five grandchildren.
Maribel Alonso details that these women “we offer individualized attention, some know how to read others do not, so we are interacting with them in different ways.”
A system at risk
Last October, the Government of the Canary Islands approved a decree that limits the time spent in Initial Basic Training for adult education, a decision that has been rejected by the majority of the educational community. The ANPE union then warned that restricting adult training puts the most vulnerable people at risk. The union recalled that these teachings grant a second chance to those who could not study at the time.
The order of October 27, 2021, which establishes the rules of organization and operation of the Adult Education Centers (CEPA) and the Distance Education Centers (CEAD) in the autonomous community of the Canary Islands, limits the time that can remain enrolled an adult, who may not be in this education for more than four years (it may be five, in exceptional cases, duly justified). This measure, according to data provided by the adult training centers themselves, will affect about 5,000 adults who are currently undergoing Initial Basic Training in the Canary Islands.
According to data compiled by the union central, almost 64% of the enrollment in these centers corresponds to women who could not study at the time -they got married early, had to emigrate or take care of their families-.
In addition to women, the CEPAs also welcome students with special educational needs, students derived from municipal social services (in some cases, at risk of social exclusion), students from penitentiary centers and foreign students with integration difficulties due to language . Three out of every 10 CEPA students are foreigners.
Anaga has three Adult Care Units
In addition to the one in Roque Negro, there is another one in El Batán and one more in Las Carboneras. 95% of the students are women. They receive individual attention, but it is also a space in which these women, in an environment as dispersed as Anaga’s, can socialize and improve their self-esteem.
Maribel Alonso: “This is not a workshop, it is adult education”
Maribel Alonso joined adult education in this course and tells how the system that is currently providing coverage to these women is about to change with a recent decree from the Ministry of Education. “What the decree comes to say is that this student profile can stay for a few courses, but the reality is that they are profiles that are going to stay longer. We are not talking about primary school students, they are people who have other learning rhythms”. Alonso explains that, “with the change proposed by Education, they will only be able to stay for a number of years and then they have to leave the system, when before they could stay for 8 or 10 years. This is not a workshop, this is adult education, a regulated system, where they receive Initial Basic Training, which is literacy and post-initial. We have students who do not pass to that second phase. They don’t care about the title.”