Crises have made students ‘functionally illiterate,’ ex-Teachers Assn. president says

By John McPhaul

Former Puerto Rico Teachers Association President Aida Díaz insisted on Tuesday on the urgency of serving students who have become “functionally illiterate” because of the pandemic, the earthquakes in the south-southwest of the island and the long-term effects of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“These guys are now lagging behind -- especially those from the south who came out of [Hurricane] Maria, compared to the rest of the students -- huge. We are not talking about 100 or 200 students, we are talking about thousands of students, young people who will be future employees, future businessmen, future leaders of the country,” Díaz said in an interview on Radio Isla.

“What work are they going to do? Who is going to use them? If they have all kinds of deficiencies -- emotional, social and even intellectual. They are not going to be able to be functional wherever they are to be used.”

The former president of the Teachers Association said there is still time to minimize the damage, but the Department of Education had to take advantage of the months before the summer to have a detailed plan.

“But there really isn’t one. And there cannot be, because if the person [designated Education secretary Magaly Rivera Rivera] has not been inside and there is practically no one directing, because Eliezer Ramos is acting [secretary] and I do not know what plans he has made for the summer,” Díaz said. “Whoever enters [as the confirmed secretary] is going to have to soak up the situation in order to plan. And we have been like this since before May. There is not much more time. I don’t know if something is going to be done this summer or when they planned it. There is no plan, unless they have it reserved and have not made it public.”

“Instead of having wasted so much time in these five months, a plan should have been worked out by now for this summer to resume classes and take that group that is behind and bring them up to date,” she added.

Díaz also noted that the possibility of delaying the start of the next academic semester until the end of August may be a consequence of still not having a secretary of Education in place.

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