Yaneli has two children and has been evacuated from Puerto Naos for safety in the face of the volcanic eruption that has affected the island of La Palma since last Sunday. His house is safe from the lava, but as a precaution the neighbors have been evicted from this point. She has gone to a relative’s house, but “there are 13 of us right now,” she says. He understands that the educational centers are closed, but he does not hide that the situation is becoming “very difficult.” “It’s horrible,” she says as she walks carrying bags with one of her little ones, who doesn’t stop asking questions like any minor at that age and who is going through a process of so many changes in her daily life. Since last Sunday, a total of 20 educational centers in the municipalities of Los Llanos de Aridane, El Paso and Tazacorte have been closed “until further notice.” Classes have also been suspended only this Monday in the schools of Santa Cruz de La Palma and in Breña Alta to carry out cleaning tasks due to the ash that has fallen this Sunday from the volcano. Until now, it is known with certainty that the Los Campitos school (with 23 students) was affected by the lava and probably the Todoque school, from where all possible material was extracted shortly before being evacuated. In one way or another, there are about 4,400 students who are without classes and who are being affected by the situation on the island, so the priority will be to work on emotions when they return to class.
In the mornings, families are hardly appreciated on the streets of El Paso or Los Llanos de Aridane. In the parks, children do not play and the football fields and pavilions have been converted into care centers or equipment collection points for those affected. Ash permeates everything. “Now we go out for a while at night to take a short walk,” explains a neighbor who is with her children and who remarks that the authorities have warned that movements should be limited and protect the health of the respiration of these fine rock particles . Reconciling work life with caring for minors is complicated. “They had only been in school for a few days after the summer and now unfortunately this happens,” says this woman. However, the entire population insists that those most affected are those who have lost everything.
The Ministry of Education agrees with experts that the main thing is to work on emotional well-being when students return to classrooms, whose classes will resume little by little “safely”. There are students affected directly and others indirectly. Psychologists insist that “the sooner normality recovers, it will be much better” and, therefore, this area of the Canary Islands Government is evaluating the situation of all centers and families. Last Friday, the counselor Manuela de Armas had planned to travel to the island and meet in the extraordinary Governing Council, but was finally unable to do so due to the conditions of the airports due to the ash from the volcano. However, it has held telematic meetings with the directors of the schools in the area. One of the problems in resuming school activity, in addition to the changing situation of the eruption, is that many families have moved to other parts of the island with relatives. The Red Cross, in fact, confirm that very few families with children have been placed in hotels.
This dispersion causes other problems to be generated, such as how the school transport and dining rooms will resume, since there are families who also have the right to a “zero quota”. The children of María de los Ángeles take advantage of this modality, which is why she was this Friday in the vicinity of the El Paso Soccer Field precisely to access food for minors. “We can all go through a bad time, and coming here is not a shame,” he says. Therefore, he emphasizes that everyone who requires it should go to these points.
A devastated school
One of those teachers most affected is Ángeles Nieves, director of the Los Campitos school. He explains that he has permanent contact with the families of his school and remarks that although they still do not know the place where the students and teachers will be relocated, he does point out that the main concern of the boys and girls is to be together again in the same class. “I tell them that we are going to have an equally beautiful school and that we will all be together,” he says. The teacher appreciates the expressions of solidarity and affection with the affected center and with all the residents of La Palma who live close to the eruption. The teacher also agrees that working on the emotional part is a priority. “We have other empty unit schools, so it is an ideal possibility that we can move to one of them,” he says.
The majority unions, STEC, Anpe and CCOO have indicated that the most important thing is to guarantee safety and they request the Ministry of Education that classes do not resume until this is fulfilled. From Anpe, precisely the same is requested as the director of Los Campitos; that closed unit schools are used. From the Ministry they explain that this is being considered since first a report is being prepared with the situation and the damages.
The Minister of Education of the Government of the Canary Islands, Manuela de Armas, explained this Sunday that on Tuesday it is expected to resume with normality the teaching activity in Santa Cruz de La Palma and in Breña Alta and that it is expected to gradually recover normality in the rest of the island. The families explain that they have transferred to the Ministry that they prefer, if security allows it, that the children be in classes since there they feel more protected, play with their peers and have their tutor as a reference, “but always with the recommendations of those who are responsible for telling us that there is no danger whatsoever for children to go to classes, “he remarked.
In the Llanos de Aridane, in the sports center where clothing and other belongings have been collected for the evacuated population throughout the week, there are two professionals from the psychological emergency and disaster intervention team at the entrance to listen and emotionally support to the affected people so that they can express themselves. Psychologists Nayra Rodríguez and Felipe Lagarejo emphasize that this is not an easy situation. Sometimes, they say that moments of a certain uproar are formed due to the lack of information. As for the minors, they emphasize that they normally guide a person in the family with whom the boys and girls have an emotional and trusting bond so that they can discuss their doubts with them and guide them on how to explain the situation to them. The Red Cross carries out the evaluation of the affected people and refers them according to their needs. Although not many minors have been transferred to hotels with their parents, they do add from the NGO that they have distributed donated toys.