Last Days for a Girl's Village School in Portugal

The Mafomedes school is a kind of school that is disappearing in Portugal. It is located in a council (district) where the highest rate of school failure in the country occurs. It also reflects the problems of a centrally controlled school system that does not meet the needs of an isolated region where economic and social development is different from the rest of the nation. The Ministry of Education is closing such schools and transferring the pupils to bigger, more modern schools. A school-transport network is being developed.

MY name is Ana, and I attend the second phase of primary school at the school of my village, Mafomedes.

My school has only two pupils: Jose and myself, and so it is very sad because we have no one to play with.

We are the only two children in Mafomedes, a village lost in the council of Baiao, a mountainous region north of River Douro, not very far from Oporto. Only 70 people live here, most of whom are old people, and we all work in the fields taking care of the plowing and the cattle.

My school is very old, because it was built according to a model that was very up-to-date when my grandmother was a child, in the 1940s, when they used to separate boys from girls.

My grandmother still remembers the day when the school was inaugurated. Some very important men came to the village, and many fireworks were set off.

Nowadays boys and girls are not separate. I am very happy because they have built a fireplace. The school stands in a wide open space, and in winter there's a very cold wind blowing from Serra do Marao.

In summer, it's the opposite: The sun shines all day, and it is very hot in the teaching room.

My teacher says that we must be the last pupils in this school, because from now on the children from Mafomedes will certainly go to more modern schools, perhaps even to Baiao.

Perhaps they are luckier than we are, for we only have very old books. Perhaps they will have a video and a television in school and, that way, learning must be much funner.

Here the best we have is a clown copied from a children's book, some colored paper models of regular solids, and a poster with the food pie-chart.

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