As was the case with noticing a lack of accessible places throughout the island, a foreigner like myself could make the connection quickly. Internet on the island is scarce.
Nearly two-thirds of the student body at Ignacio Hernandez classifies as low-income. Further, only 30% of the students have internet access at home, according to the school’s principal, Paola Quiroga.
This posed a problem for remote schooling.
“Those students needed to have a physical file in order to complete their tasks and homework,” said Quiroga. “That put a total imbalance because those who have the access to technology could have access to education and those that do not, they could not pass.”
Without access to the home through virtual learning, the school had little insight into how students were doing academically. And by extension, emotionally. Mendoza García, occasionally accompanied by Quiroga, started making home visits.
Domestic violence is common on the island which was only compounded by episodes of depression brought on by the pandemic. Many students found it difficult to stay on track with so many external factors blocking their success. Further, without internet, students heard bits and pieces of news regarding the pandemic leading them to fear the unknown, according to Quiroga.
Quiroga and Mendoza García started offering night classes to students who could not meet educational markers throughout the early months of the pandemic. That way, they could work and make a living on the island while completing their studies.
Mendoza García additionally extended his emotional support to parents. He worked to educate them on the importance of internet connection and emotional containment that could be improved on the homefront in order to promote student success at school.
While Mendoza García is an educator in the traditional sense, his role is ever-expanding. Emotional support was never at the forefront of his job description, but he’s learned student success includes strides on the emotional front as well.