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Mac Margolis

Latin America’s Teachers Are Pandemic’s Unsung Heroes

In countries with high inequality and spotty connectivity, they are finding innovative ways to reach the 160 million students shut out of classrooms.

Beyond the range of Zoom, but not hope.

Beyond the range of Zoom, but not hope.

Courtesy of Wesley Campos, Department of Education, Niquelandia, Brazil

The novel coronavirus has brought out the worst in Latin American politics. How else to explain Brazil and Mexico, whose what-me-worry leaders preside over nations that account for more than one in five global fatalities? Yet for all the official heels on call, plenty of heroes toil below — perhaps none so invisibly as the legion of educators who have been forced to reinvent their jobs almost overnight to reach 160 million students shut out of classrooms since March.

Like the more celebrated essential workers in public health, teachers know how unevenly the burden of the outbreak has fallen on society. While the well-heeled young metropolitan scholars log on to class from the comforts of Zoom, their less fortunate peers make do with printed worksheets that they must fetch often from distant schoolhouse or pray for a Wi-Fi signal on cheap mobile phones.