Recently, we found out that M. has not been going to school. D. intervened, went to his school and learned that the twelve-year old would have to repeat the whole year if he did not return that week. D. explained it to his mother. She said she would take him every day. I fear that resolution may not have continued. He is smart, but that is not enough. There are other things at work: a father that does not love him or visit him, a mother that is sickly and underemployed, as well as uneducated. M. also lives between the two families that have the Usual Suspects as sons. The latter fill up the vacuum in M’s life with their anti-social attitude, their bravado, their certainty that they are heroes against everyone with their magic potions for getting high and, to M. probably, carefree and happy: paint thinner, Magic Marker, weed laced with got knows what.
M. doesn’t just have to maneuver through the Usual Suspects in our neighborhood. He has to reach his school, which is located in Cerro de Cuarto, one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city of Guanajuato.
La Jornada’s Fernando Camacho Servín (Translated by: Rhiannon Nicolson) has written recently about the perils of reaching one’s school in Mexico.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) warns “that Mexico now ranks No.1 worldwide with the highest number of cases of bullying in middle schools, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).”
“The NHRC, led by Raúl Plascencia Villanueva, stated that bullying has reached a point where students in elementary and middle schools are now forming gangs to attack their classmates physically, with many of the victims going so far as to commit suicide.”
“The NHRC also referred to statistics from the National System for Comprehensive Family Development [Sistema Nacional para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia, or DIF in Spanish]:
40% of students in Sixth Grade say they have been victims of theft;
25% have been insulted or threatened;
16% have been physically hit; and
44% have been the victim of a violent incident of another nature.
17% of children aged six allege that they are being insulted and hit at school;
Two of every ten children between the ages of 10 and 12 say they have been picked on and humiliated;
11 per cent of Elementary School students admit to having robbed or threatened by a classmate; while
Just over 7% of Middle School students admit to having similarly been robbed or threatened by a classmate.
Types of violence found in the classroom range from physical, psychological or emotional attacks, and go as far as sexual abuse and cyber-bullying, all of which, if occurring repeatedly, can lead to the social exclusion of victims.”
The next step is to find out whether M. is being bullied outside of his neighborhood, as well as in it.
M. is a ten-year old at risk. He is, in my mind, a symbol of where young Mexicans without education stand. In great peril. To cope with this peril on all levels, M. has learned to be a superb liar. He can invent endless complicated tales in order to get human attention and money. It is very hard to determine where his center is, or what it is made of. To survive with a good life he needs to be medivac’ed out and into an intense program of Outward Bound, therapy, family and firm love.
And it is unlikely he will get that, not to mention the Usual Suspects in our neighborhood.