A Poverty Story

Poverty kills.

Not all at once – although the bullets that breed in poverty will do that. Poverty kills slowly. It grinds and grinds and grinds. Until it reduces whatever hope you had to a dusty smudge of resentment, befouls whatever innocence you had with the daily excrement of your reality, erases completely whatever childhood you had and replaces it with a ten-hour-a-day-ten-dollar-a-day job in a Mexican greasy spoon.

Poverty snatches children from their dreams and sells them to the demons of despair and depression.

Poverty forces adults to decide to choose between their children and their own dignity.

Think about all that, then add in Covid. Schools closed. Studying on cheap cell phones. No socializing. Alone at home with your poverty, watching it suffocate your youth. Two years of this. In a country where public school education is already atrocious, and there is nowhere to go but down.

You know what happens. Kids fail. Kids drop out. Kids stop being kids and take their seat on the merry-go-round of poverty. Spin that wheel. Watch the viciousness of the whirling circle.

A number: After two years of closed schools “71 percent of (Latin American) lower secondary education students may not be able to understand a text of moderate length,” says a new World Bank study.

More numbers: A 13-year-old girl enters middle school with second-highest grade in her class: 9.7 out of 10. Three years later, during the pandemic, she scrapes her way into high school with an average of 7.2.

Last number: One. That is how many high-school semesters she will finish before dropping out. One. In a few weeks, the former brightest girl on the block becomes just another Oaxacan teenage dropout wearing an apron and serving up slop for a buck an hour.

Unless there’s a miracle. I’m not a believer, though.

That’s it. That’s the story.

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