Published on 19 Apr, 2020
Opinion article by Patricia Viñamata de Gibert

How many times during this quarantine we will have heard the phrase “you don’t value what you have until you lose it“. Well, being at home and analyzing how my students’ families deal with this situation, I realize how broad the word “education” is.

Normally, when we imagine our children learning with their teacher, we quickly place them in a classroom, in front of a book or some activity, surrounded by other children their age. At this moment, teachers and students are reinventing ourselves; how to teach and how to learn locked up at home. Resources, ideas, proposals, ways of working through a screen, etc. appear. Trial, error, trial, error, trial, error, trial, error. That’s when you realize that education goes far beyond school, as we usually understand it.

I think this teaches us something basic: in a formal educational process there are only three essential actors. The teacher, the student and the family. Each one with his share of responsibility and his role.

We are living our own emergency and we are realizing how important it is that children continue to learn. Some will want it because they can’t stand their children at home anymore, for whatever reason, others because they think that if they are paying, we have to do whatever it takes to continue, and others, with whom I feel more identified, will not want their children to lose the school year, or in other words, they will not want them to stop learning. In this process, new for everyone, schools and teachers are adapting and trying to offer this much appreciated education when you don’t have it.


I think this teaches us something basic: in a formal educational process there are only three essential actors. The teacher, the student and the family. Each one with his share of responsibility and his role.

I live in Barcelona and I am talking about my experience here today, year 2020, students who have a computer at home. With these resources, I play my cards, I know I am one of the lucky ones. But what about teachers who have students without computers? They will have to reinvent themselves in another way, and they will. And this is just one example.

We can try to imagine now, a thousandth part of what families submerged in other types of emergencies such as wars, refugee camps, areas of extreme poverty, etc. find themselves in. These children also have the right to receive an education. There their options plummet, their problem is no longer being at home or not having a computer. In addition, there are physical, psychological, economic and social risk factors that we are not aware of in most cases. Allow me to qualify this risk I am talking about so that it does not lead to confusion. Risk of being assaulted or raped, risk of being kidnapped. Risk of not having access to potable water for drinking or hand washing, risk of malnutrition. Risk of having your home bombed, risk of being orphaned, risk of dying.

But again, if there are children, an adult who allows it and a teacher, we have the necessary actors so that, despite the very difficult circumstances, there can be an educational process that, although complicated, is possible.

Let’s break with the idea that a school is four walls, tables, books, exams and grades. We will readapt this idea to the reality of many places where infrastructure is a luxury, in fact, unnecessary. When we founded Everywhere Schools we believed in this idea and we have tried to convey it to everyone who would listen to us. Perhaps this crisis in which we find ourselves allows us to empathize more easily with all the millions of children who not only do not receive an education, but the alternative they face is devastating in every way.

From the confinement of my own home, thinking about this reality that we live here and in which they are living in other countries, every day I understand better and see more clearly that it is possible to offer education in unlikely and sometimes unimaginable contexts for our reality. As a teacher, as a development worker and as a person, I am and will continue to be committed to this idea, which is simple to explain and very difficult to carry out, but as I said, not impossible.

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