Sugar Cane Kids

 

SCK KobeWhen you go into the bateyes you are first greeted by a small army of children. They are full of excitement and their white teeth show a broad smile and sparkling eyes. They are quick to welcome you with all the energy of a child's birthday party.

They don't know yet.

They are innocent little kids just like our kids. At this age our kids are already receiving the education that will sustain their lives. The Sugar Cane Kids don't know that without an education they are facing a life of Kids Canehard work on the baked anvil of a sugar cane field.

For more than half of them, perhaps as many 3/4ths, they are already sentenced to this fate. Some of them have parents that don't see the value of education and want their labor to contribute to the family income. For others their family cannot, or will not, pay the small cost of sending them to school. For the others it's because there are not enough Brador Schoolschools or teachers.

Schools are located throughout the bateyes and the education is provided without cost. A teacher, textbooks, pencils and paper are provided. To attend every student must wear a uniform including shoes. The cost of a uniform and shoes represents a large percentage of a cutter's weekly wages.

For the fortunate children whose parents decide to make this sacrifice Classroomeducation most likely begins in a single room school house where grades 1 - 4 are taught by a dedicated teacher. Larger bateyes, such as Palo Blanco, have as many as ten classrooms and a Principal. These schools often serve many bateyes. Children walk several miles to attend classes.

From small batey schools students desiring to continue beyond the fourth grade are required to travel from their home to a batey with a school that teaches grades 5 - 8. This adds additional expense for travel to the need for a uniform. At this level many children drop out. Many because they cannot afford the increased cost. Also, now 11 or 12 years old they can help out with harvesting the cane. When girls reach 12 or 13 they turn to prostitution and are lost. In spite of this, most students that continue their education are girls.

Before entering high school students must prove Dominican citizenship. Many need to hire a lawyer to prepare the needed certificates. Once in high school the family usually moves from the batey into the city. Once again this increases the cost of living for the family but eliminates the transportation costs.

Los ColinasChurches in La Romana, San Pedro, Los Colinas, and soon Baccaraca, support schools. San Pedro and Los Colinas teach through high school and La Romana only through grade 7. Administering these schools is a very costly endeavor. The schools were all built by volunteer teams, just as the hospital has. The cost to educate one student is $250.00 a year. The schools in Los Colinas and San Pedro educated over 1,000 students a year.

Very few students in these schools receive financial support from US donors.

The Sugar Cane Kids program is focused primarily on children living on the bateyes around La Romana. Last year about $5,800.00 was used to refurbish batey schools, purchase uniforms and shoes and school supplies.