Ecuadorian student sets up class under tree for kids without internet access: 'They deserve an education.'

Justin Chan

A 16-year-old Ecuadorian high school student decided to take matters into her own hands when she learned that children in a poor neighborhood of Guayaquil couldn’t continue their education online, Reuters reports.

Since the pandemic broke out in the South American country, schools have been forced to closed to limit the spread of COVID-19. Though many students have taken to their computers to resume their studies, those in the Reality of God neighborhood of northern Guayaquil unfortunately don’t have access to computers or a phone with a data plan, according to the newswire.

Enter Denisse Toala. For a couple of months, the 16-year-old has been using her cell phone to check websites for homework that would normally be assigned to children in school. Toala has then reportedly met with a group of 40 children underneath a tree and taught them in a makeshift school setting, complete with a blackboard, posters and a welcome sign that reads “Learn to teach.”

“COVID-19 has caused difficulties on the economic front, but especially in education,” she said. “They deserve an education.”

As Reuters notes, Toala’s generous act hasn’t gone unnoticed. Many parents in the neighborhood said that the 16-year-old’s work has allowed their children to keep up with their education amid a health crisis that has severely impacted the city’s medical services.

“There is no internet, there is no [cell] signal and my children would have lost a year [of school] if not for the tree and the teacher,” Gina Perez, a mother of four, told the newswire.

In truth, just 37 percent of Ecuador’s households have internet access, according to UNICEF. Because of this, six out of 10 children are unable to continue their education online. The figures are more striking in remote areas, where only 16 percent of residents have internet access.

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