Don's Diary

八月 25, 2000


On location in rural Mexico to examine an educational project encouraging students to take control of their own learning.

I am part of a team of external examiners working with Conafe (National Council for the Development of Education), which establishes educational centres in communities with less than 500 inhabitants.


Join colleagues in Toluca, the state capital of the State of Mexico and set off into the spectacular countryside. Marvel at how anyone manages to farm fields on a 45-degree slope.

The educational centre run by the community has been open for a year. Given a demonstration by the nutrition class: a meal exhibiting the benefits of wheat, soya and potatoes.


Visit one of our most remote centres. Posters on telegraph poles and buildings painted with slogans are the remains of election campaigns held in July; Vicente Fox will become the first non-Partido Revolucionario Institucional president for more than 70 years.

Arrive at a cliff-face painted in PRI colours. Climb 20m up steps cut into the cliff to reach the centre. We are treated to presentations on such topics as medicinal plants, political parties and fungi. Talk with young instructors who want to know what we think of how they work. It is late by the time we get to Tejupilco and find our hotel.


An earthquake: seven on the Richter scale, says our guide. Like us, he slept through it.

Drive to Los Hormigueros, the project showpiece. Here they have achieved remarkable results: some students are thinking of further education, it has also contributed to their economic development, with edible fungi and dress-making skills.

A tutor who works at a local college of arts and crafts arrives. He will spend the next ten days giving a series of workshops on electrical and plumbing installations. Sadly, the electricity workers managed to take out the main transformer a month ago and the community has been without electricity since.


Meet with our project director. Downtown Mexico City is an incongruous location: one day we enjoy magnificent views of the Sierra Madre, the next a stunning view from the 15th floor over the most urbanised centre in the world.


Discuss observations with the director of the project at Conafe headquarters. With the inauguration of the new president, many senior positions in state organisations like Conafe will be subject to change.


Go to cinema. As the films on offer are mostly Hollywood, we decide on a Mexican film, La Ley de Herodes (Herod's Law). It is not easy to find anybody who can translate the dialogue precisely, as it demands a grasp of obscenities in English and Spanish, but we settle for: "Either you're bed, or you're f***ed."

David Turner is principal lecturer in education, business school, University of Glamorgan.



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