You are here: Home / NEWS / Seminar on migration marks the beginning of the collaboration between USP and El Colegio de México

Seminar on migration marks the beginning of the collaboration between USP and El Colegio de México

by Richard Meckien - published Jun 15, 2018 01:50 PM - - last modified Jun 26, 2018 02:27 PM
Rights: Original version in Portuguese by Victor Matioli.

Silvia Giorguli

Silvia Giorguli: "Mexico is missing schools with more inclusive policies"

"Research and public policies on migration have been focusing on adults, leaving children and young people behind." The criticism of the invisibility of young migrants opened the exhibition of Professor Silvia Elena Giorguli Saucedo, president of El Colegio de México (COLMEX,) during the seminar Migration and Education, held at the IEA on June 12.

The meeting has marked the beginning of the academic cooperation between the University of São Paulo and COLMEX, an institution of excellence in studies of social sciences and humanities. Signaling the support given by the Consulate General of Mexico in São Paulo to the partnership, Consul General Margarita Pérez Villaseñor and Deputy Consul Luis Geraldo Hernández Madrigal have both attended the event organized by the IEA in partnership with USP's International Cooperation Office (AUCANI) and COLMEX.

Mexican context

Giorguli has organized her speech around the research carried out by COLMEX's Center for Demographic, Urban and Environmental Studies, in which she actively participates. According to her, three main groups of young migrants have been instrumental in understanding the ongoing demographic restructuring in Mexico.

Related material

Photos | Video (in Spanish and Portuguese)

Demographic Dividend in Latin America
Panel with Silvia Giorguli on June 13, 2018

The first is composed of internal migrants, individuals who transit within their own country in search of better living conditions. The second is represented by returning migrants, who left the country in the early years of childhood, and then returned to Mexico in their early adolescence with few cultural references and no Spanish skills. The last group is formed by young immigrants, who mainly leave the United States to live in Mexico. According to Giorguli, of the nearly 1 million immigrants living in the country, 460,000 are underage and were born in the United States.

The agreement between the COLMEX and USP

During the seminar, IEA's Deputy Director Guilherme Ary Plonski made clear that his expectation is to develop a center for Mexican studies at USP as well as a Brazilian study center at COLMEX. Professor Giorguli endorsed Plonski's wishes and assured that the meeting was a start for a much closer relationship between the institutions: "We have much knowledge to exchange, experiences to discuss and debates to do around the role of the university in the creation of public policies."

Giorguli attended a meeting with USP's President Vahan Agopyan to plan future collaborations between the institutions on June 11. Among the discussed projects there are the possible creation of a chair and joint graduate programs. Further attendees of the meeting were the president of USP's International Cooperation Office (AUCANI,) Raul Machado Neto, Guilherme Ary Plonski, Consul General of Mexico in São Paulo Margarita Pérez Villaseñor, Deputy Consul General Luis Gerardo Hernández Madrigal, and the coordinator of USP's International Conjuncture Analysis Group (GACINT,) linked to the Institute of International Relations (IRI,) Alberto Pfeifer.

Regarding the impact that migration has on the educational development of children, the president of COLMEX has avoided being categorical: "One part of the literature describes positive effects and another part, negative effects." According to her, everything depends on the bias by which the situation is analyzed. "Migration can cause a young person to go to school as well as to abandon it earlier than usual," she argued.

She has pointed out that these complex effects are basically moderated due to two factors: the family dynamics of each individual and the ability of schools to integrate persons with different characteristics and trajectories. "Migration may result in greater financial resources for the family, but there is also a change in the adult learning and supervision environment," she said. And it is precisely in this type of situation that the performance of schools becomes more important: "When parents can not supervise the academic tasks of their children, the school needs to think about other work mechanics."

Another challenge that must be faced by young Mexicans is the deadlock between migrating and studying. According to Giorguli, 45% of Mexicans leaving the country are less than 18 years old. "At the moment, they have to decide if they want to stay in the country or migrate to find better conditions of study and work," she said. "And they rarely believe that continuing their studies in Mexico will give them a better chance of finding a good job in the United States."

Despite the high numbers of emigration, Giorguli has higlighted that the country is currently experiencing a "zero balance," where the number of immigrants and emigrants is equalized. "Every year about 140,000 Mexicans leave the country, but another 140,000 return to Mexico," she explained.

Internal migration

The internal flow of people was much more intense during the rural exodus that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, according to Professor Giorguli. But it is still a recurrent phenomenon that has considerable consequences for the education of children. "Imagine what migration, even within the country, means for a young man who has to leave his home, his school habits and his friends," she instigated.

The research projects developed by Giorguli's group show that migrations are more disruptive - making young people drop out of school - when they take place during the early stages of education. After the age of 16, the effects are lower because "the migrations may be related to the search for better conditions of study." However, the professor has pointed out that the reverse path is also quite common: "When, for some reason, a young person leaves school, migration seems like a solution to get on with their life."

The group has also concluded that despite the difficulties encountered in adapting to the new environment, young people born in the United States are the ones who remain the most in Mexican schools. Non-migrants and Mexican (internal) migrants tend to stop attending school considerably earlier. "One of the justifications is that the parents of these children born in the USA also have a higher level of schooling," explained Giorguli.

José Renato de Campos Araújo
José Renato Araújo: "When I arrived in Mexico, I was surprised to realize that the 'problem' was not on the northern border, but on the southern one"

The Central American issue

Of all the groups that make up the Mexican urban society, the one that undergoes the most serious social fragility is that of Central American migrants. According to Professor Giorguli, Mexico is a transitional shelter for most of these families, who have the United States as their final destination.

Research from COLMEX's Center for Demographic, Urban and Environmental Studies have concluded that while 95 percent of Mexican children aged 8 to 12 are absorbed into the educational system, only 65 percent of the Central American ones of the same age are incorporated. As for young people aged 16 to 18, only 13% of students from Central American countries attend schools in Mexico. For the natives, the index is 65%. "This shows that these families and these young people do not have the same resilience as migrants from the United States," said Giorguli.

The difficulties faced by Central American people who migrate to Mexico are not limited to the educational field. Professor Giorguli has reported that these people, because they are from a population in transit, rarely have access to all kinds of social assistance. One of the guest speakers, José Renato de Campos Araújo, a professor at USP's School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities (EACH), has spent a period as a researcher in Mexico and reiterated Giorguli's speech: "When I arrived in Mexico, I realized that the 'problem' was not on the northern border, but on the southern one, where Central Americans were trying to reach the United States."

Rosana Aparecida Baeninger

Rosana Baeninger: "As the countries of the North close their borders, the nationalities in the southern schools get more diverse"

Education and inequality

Rosana Aparecida Baeninger, a professor at the Department of Demography of the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP,) who has also taken part in the debate, questioned Giorguli about how the Mexican educational system is preparing to deal with inequalities of origin, culture and students.

The president of COLMEX believes that the differences of opportunity begin in the origin of the children, since Mexicans born in the countryside will never have an education comparable to the young people born in the cities. This segregation has increased with the implementation of basic distance education in the country: "Income differences between a child who studies in a regular school and a child who studies at a distance are enormous."

In this context, if the damages caused to the young Mexicans are great, those caused to the migrants are even greater. "Imagine how the education of a young Central American migrant in a rural community is, being a user of distance education. There are many inequalities that accumulate on this individual," explained Giorguli.

Another challenge faced by many of the migrants, especially the inmates, is the language. As inconsistent as it may seem, language barriers are harder to bridge for children born in indigenous communities who migrate to large cities than to American migrants. Giorguli has reported that many Mexican teachers still complain about the learning pace of the indigenous youth. "What they do not understand is that Spanish is not the first language of these children," she said. "This shows that what is lacking in Mexico is schools with more inclusive policies."

Photos: Leonor Calasans/IEA-USP