Empty school desks in Venezuela

"Fe y Alegria's classrooms are almost always full. Sometimes, a mother, understanding that there is no more space, tells us that she will bring an extra desk for her son but this week we have seen two empty places that will never again be used: sixteen year old Samuel Tomoy was murdered on Monday, May 28 and on Friday June 1, the desk of eleven year old Osmalis Rojas, woke up empty. This was caused by a shot received a few yards away from his humble home in Brisas del Orinoco, San Félix.

Two years ago, on June 2, another desk was left empty. Sixteen year old Katibell Velasquez, a student of Fe y Alegria's School, Inmaculada in Ciudad Bolivar, was kidnapped and her bones were found nearby a few days later. We are still waiting for the authorities to tell us who murdered her; we will formally remind them in the next few days. We do not forget our dead.

Paradoxically, this week we have been working in all our schools on the Plan for Disarmament and for Peace during the celebration of the week "Together for children's rights." We proposed to change aggressive words and signs for friendly ones; change war toys for footballs. We were engaged in these activities while they were killing our students in the streets.

Samuel received a shot in the UD 146. He was talking to a friend at the corner. He died the same night. Osmalis had just gone with his mother to en evangelic church around 8.30 at night. His mother was still inside the church when a group of "balandros" appeared near her daughter who was with a group of children, running after some others, shooting in all directions. The children started to run, but a bullet hit Osmalis. She died after a few minutes. Her mother could not believe it. Nor could her Fe y Alegría School teachers, where she had studied since first grade.

We can read in the school board what her teacher had written about her in her evaluation:" You are a friendly and hardworking girl. You have a deep sense of friendship; you are a steady worker although sometimes you get distracted. Your work is good, you only need to go through the multiplying and dividing table so as to overcome some weaknesses. I know that you can do it because you have proved it." And before the teacher's signature one reads:" She achieved her goals". There will be no school certificate for fifth grade. She was not able to end the school year.

Two empty desks in one week is a great deal of violence. A lot of dead people for us. A few weeks ago we wrote an article titled,"Until the next one is you!" We could have never thought that next could be us, the big Fe y Alegría Family.

Today we have no happiness, we have a lot of pain, but we continue with faith in the need to join for peace, convinced of our work to make our country human. In order to do this we have to demand the government to protect its citizens, to protect the children, our children. We know that we have not done enough. Let us educate for peace, let us educate for life!


Luisa Pernalete

                                                                        Ciudad Guayana, June 2007