Back to School in Barracas

Written by Isabell Jacobson
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Playfulness and bursts of colour define this pretty, pink kindergarten in Barracas and despite the relentless rain, the children were full of excitement and fun. A rock of the plastic horse, a play on the roundabout or just a giggle amongst friends is all it takes for these children to feel cared for. Of course, there is the odd tear and familiar situations play out in front of me; a little girl crosses her arms in a sulk as she sees a boy take her chance to play on the rocking horse; a boy cries because his mother is next door preparing food and he has decided it is time to see her. However, it is mostly just smiles and as I look at their painted handprints on the walls, I understand why this place is so important to them.
The volunteers are on hand to help with any rifts between the children and to help keep the peace. I marvel at their composure and it is clear that their two eyes act as twenty to keep this place running smoothly. You see, when you are four years old or so, your emotions tend to run high but unlike adults, a quick manoeuvre on a yellow, plastic slide is enough to turn things around.
The rooms are small, clean and splashed with colour. There are three main rooms and each one has its own character; a calming room with the curtains drawn, a games room full of boisterous toddlers and a playful but rather quiet room full of what some would call the terrible twos. This is where Lovisa, a swedish volunteer, sits and helps out. She explains that this is where she feels most comfortable, given that these children do not speak yet and her spanish is not quite up to the speed of the older kids. She adores it here and you can see why. The toddlers hug her and recognise her as part of the place and although she is not in charge, she keeps the kids smiling and happy.
Of course, there are many different personalities in the room and she has to be watchful to pay attention to all equally. Some shy away whilst others bounce all around her. It is a mixed bag with noise and laughter very much in the mix.The most impactful part about this place is the very lack of fancy toys and equipment, yet the sheer joy of the kids. You hear 'hay que compartir' as children are urged to share out the limited materials in the rooms.
Some are content to carry cardboard boxes around, others jump in and out of plastic crates whilst others use plastic skittles as drumsticks. It is as simple as it gets and yet it works. My job as a teacher back home means I have a personal connection to this little, cosy school and I hope to return soon. Perhaps on a sunnier day, the kids will be even happier?
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