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News > Mexico

Pandemic Deepens Inequality Within Mexico's Largest University

  • National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico City, Mexico, May 29, 2020.

    National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico City, Mexico, May 29, 2020. | Photo: EFE

Published 4 June 2020
Opinion

Thousands of students attend distance learning as they face difficult economic situations and Internet connectivity problems.

The COVID-19 pandemic sent home 350,000 students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Latin America's largest public university, which faces the challenge of teaching distance learning to thousands of students who face daily difficult economic situations and problems of internet connectivity.

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In Mexico City, the classrooms on the UNAM central campus, which the United Nations declared a World Heritage Site, have been empty since March 17.

"We are all at home and we take class or work in the dining room. Our house is small, and it becomes very uncomfortable when you need to speak and someone else is speaking at the same time," said Ramses Rodrigo, a management student who enrolled at UNAM because he did not want his studies to become an additional economic burden on his family. 

This Mexican student has to share the computer with his other two brothers and the Internet at home connection is not adequate.

Regarding cases like these, the UNAM Scientific Research coordinator William Lee explained that opening classes online has been a great effort "because the University is gigantic and the accessibility of students is extremely diverse and not optimal."

Victor Romero, a doctoral student at UNAM, is convinced that the pandemic will leave the most vulnerable students "behind."​​​​​​​

"Inequalities have widened. Incredible as it may seem, a significant section of the student population does not have access to the Internet or a computer," he said.​​​​​​​

The UNAM Scientific Research coordinator knows that student learning has declined because of factors such as lack of access to laboratories and the absence of classroom discussions.

"There will be a job to pick up on several things... It would not be appropriate to assume that students learned everything they had to learn just because they finished the semester," Lee said.

UNAM will not resume face-to-face activities before June 15 and will study the situation of each of its campuses before starting the next semester on September 22. Unlike what was usual in the past, its classrooms cannot reopen with over 100 students.​​​​​​​

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