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LIFE Gives Education Opportunities to Thousands of Vulnerable Children in Mexico's Struggling School System

Updated: May 20

Overcrowded and Under funded Schools in Mexico Battle High Dropout

Rates and Low Academic Scores: LIFE Steps in to Provide Essential Support, Increasing Education Equality, Equity, and Accessibility for Mexican Students.

Maria's Story

As the sun rises over the bustling streets of Maria’s hometown in Mexico, she clutches her schoolbooks tightly against her chest, her steps hurried and determined. For Maria, the journey to education is not just a walk to the classroom; it's a daily battle. At just twelve years old, she shoulders the weight of responsibility far beyond her years.

In a home where finances are stretched, Maria knows that her education is not just a dream but a necessity—a ticket out of the cycle of poverty that has had a hold on her family for generations. However, the road to school is filled with many hurdles.

As Maria makes her way to school, she is worried that she has fallen too far behind in class to pass the upcoming exams. Her parents encouraged her to start working, as they could certainly use the help. Many of her friends are already working in the local market, selling goods with their families. If she doesn’t pass these exams, that could be her parents’ reason for pulling her out of school. 

Maria dreams of becoming a writer and she desperately wants to read all the books in the library of her school in Baja, Mexico. She practices writing poems in the sand of her schoolyard at recess. 

Despite her dreams, Maria often finds herself torn between attending school and helping her family make ends meet—a heartbreaking choice that no child should ever have to make.

The lack of money at home has led her to go to school without lunch most days and no schoolbooks or materials. Once at school, Maria's classroom, like many others across Mexico, lacked the necessities for a conducive learning environment. Unsuitable desks and chairs are used, with not enough seating for every child. With no access to proper nutrition or essential resources, Maria and her classmates struggle to stay afloat academically.

Maria has not given up hope yet and will continue to pursue her dreams in hopes of receiving more support from her family, community, and abroad.

Maria is one of 3.5 million children dreaming of educational opportunities and promising careers as doctors, engineers, teachers, dentists, and more. However, with numerous barriers hindering their access to education, it's disheartening but not surprising that many of these hopeful children will not be able to graduate from high school, let alone pursue further studies in post-secondary institutions.The State of Education in Mexico.

The State of Education in Mexico

According to the OECD, Mexico has one of the worst educational outcomes and school dropout rates in the world. This is largely due to the poverty that forces many children into the workforce early to support their families, social and societal factors in the country that do not prioritize education, racism towards indigenous populations, language barriers, accessibility of education, and a lack of government funding.

Education in Mexico faces significant challenges, including low-quality schooling and low enrollment rates. The Borgen Project states that Mexico has a graduation rate of only 45% as of 2022, and nearly 19% of Mexican children aged 15 to 19 lack a high school education. These issues are worsened by shrinking funds for school systems, with cuts in textbook budgets by one-third and teacher training by over 40%. Currently, only about 16.58% of the government spending budget is allocated to education, which has been declining since 2015.

Although Mexico was the first country to make preschool mandatory for children ages 3-5, it did not have the programming or the budget to follow through. An article written by Rachel Harris in the Harvard Review mentions how recent programming and budgeting implemented by the Mexican government is not enough.

“In the early 2000s, the Mexican federal government embarked on a concerted effort to reform pre-primary education. This initiative aimed to support historically underprivileged schools by supplying them with necessary school materials, providing additional funds, and updating the national preschool curriculum. Despite these efforts, Norma Jimenez, a school headteacher in a disadvantaged area of Mexico, says that the investment fell short and lacked continuity. Consequently, many schools found themselves struggling to meet their students' needs, as they received minimal support from both local and federal authorities.” Rachel Harris writes.The Educational Hurdles Faced by Mexican Youth.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic hit school-aged children particularly hard. In 2020, 5.2 million students in Mexico didn't register for classes, and domestic violence rose by 24% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 2020. The pandemic saw more child homicides and teen pregnancies, one reason was thought to be because students weren't in school.

Online education in Mexico has had challenges like poor internet, or not having an internet connection at all, leading many parents to not enrolling their kids in online classes.

Poverty, affecting nearly 43.9% of the population, is by far the greatest contributor to the dropout rate and low-scoring students. It is simply not sustainable for many families to keep their kids in school when they barely have enough money to put food on the table.

Many children and teenagers must work to help their families stay afloat. Even if children could attend school, the lack of lunch food, school supplies, furniture, books, and other education essentials make any efforts to attend school difficult.

“How can they learn if they’ve not eaten and we haven’t got the right tools?” says Juan Carlos, a teacher at a public school in Mexico. He also mentions that he would like to use interactive online worksheets, but the computer lab is closed and there’s no internet. “There’s only so much we can do.”

LIFE’s Impact

With the educational system in Mexico facing challenges, international organizations like Life for Relief and Development are taking action to aid young people in receiving a high-quality education. This support will enable them to thrive later in life.

Since 2023, LIFE has been supporting education programs in Mexico, sending much-needed furniture to underserved schools. Most recently, hundreds of surplus cafeteria tables from a school in California found a new purpose, in a school in Baja, Mexico. The project provided essential seating solutions for 6,000 children attending the school in Baja. While the Baja school has a food program nourishing young minds, the absence of cafeteria tables leaves students standing or waiting for a seat, robbing them of precious time to fuel their bodies and focus on their studies.

Recognizing this pressing need, LIFE began shipping 517 cafeteria tables from California to Baja, Mexico. This initiative, launched in April 2024, marks a significant moment in the educational landscape of Baja, offering students the dignity of a comfortable and conducive learning environment.

There have been 12 other shipments of school furniture to schools in Baja Mexico, including desks, chairs, drawers, and other essential furniture. With these deliveries of furniture, LIFE has given more children a fighting chance of learning effectively in their classroom. The ongoing project has seen improved concentration, attendance, and overall academic outcomes among students.

There was a small presentation held where the staff and students at the school in Baja expressed their gratitude for the support from LIFE. A student at one of the schools in Baja Mexico states, "Thanks to LIFE's generosity, our school feels like a place where we belong. The new cafeteria tables have given us a space to eat and study comfortably, making us feel valued and supported in our education. LIFE's support gives us the tools to succeed and fulfill our dreams."

This project aligns with LIFE's overarching goal to ensure equitable access to quality education for children worldwide. LIFE firmly believes in the endless potential inherent in every child and is dedicated to actively creating pathways for them to realize their capabilities. Support this project today and pave the way for a brighter future for children in Mexico by investing in their education.

Photo of Mexico children happily holding the LIFE sign with some of the delivered chairs behind them.



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