Free kindergarten aids Mexico’s street kids

Early morning in Mexico City, and it’s business as usual. Across the capital the traffic roars, as the locals wash windscreens, merchants take deliveries from heavy trucks, and workers are noticeably unprotected in the streets. It’s no place for children, as Reina, a mother of two, knows only too well. “My children have had many accidents here,” she said. “My daughter Alison fell more than a meter off a concrete ramp when she was two years old, and my son Cristian has been run over by a motorbike."

The safety of children, working alongside their parents in the streets, is a growing concern.

Data from 2015 shows, on average, 21 pedestrians were killed every day on the streets of the capital. On top of that immediate danger there’s the developmental risks to young kids who inhale exhaust and pollution.

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Now, the city government sees a solution.

This is a state-funded kindergarten, named “Boys and Girls Out of Harm’s Way”, aimed specifically towards parents like Reina.

Every day the center’s social workers collect the kids in the capital’s most impoverished districts and teach them reading and writing skills. As well as getting kids off the streets, the program serves a second purpose, offering a formal education to children who rarely attend school.

That exposure is vital.

“The majority of the kids haven’t attended any school at all, so it’s a big challenge as a teacher,” said social worker Mariana Lizet. “We try to plant that seed, that they can change their perspective on life and be whoever they want. People who don’t just love their work, but who love life.”

Throughout the day, the children attend class, exercise in the playground, and get three square meals.

Doris Ortiz is a child psychologist, and says the stabilizing factor will be vital for the children’s future.

“The impact will last for their entire lives,” Ortiz said. “Children should grow up in healthy, peaceful environments, and obviously if this can’t be achieved they can’t develop emotionally or socially, which limits their chances of being successful as adults.”

Month after month, the children here continue to grow. Their teachers hope that the program will give these kids a chance at having a better life than that of their parents.