Mexico's solution to the Covid-19 educational crisis: Put school on television

At the Benito Juárez elementary school in the community of Ahuelicán at Guerrero state, Mexico, cleaning days are organized by parents while they wait for classes to resume.

Mexico City (CNN)The Jiménez family have their morning routine down to a science. Or at least, they used to.

Get up early, shower, and sit at the table for a quick desayuno of bread with jam, some cookies, and either coffee or tea for the grownups. "I miss this, the waking up routine, always in a rush," said Mariana Yoko Jiménez Arzate, resident mom and conductor of this early morning orchestra, knowing that this year will be different.
The normal post-breakfast step is a mad dash to school a few blocks away. But the 2020 version of that dash will end just 10 feet away, in the living room of the apartment in Mexico City's Moctezuma neighborhood. That's where both Jiménez kids will do most of their learning this semester -- by watching TV.
    "It's good we're still having class," said Mariana's 12-year-old daughter Giselle. "But I'm sad because I was going to start high school and meet new people."
      The Jiménez family and friends at home.

      The great educational dilemma

      Mexico's government won't allow in-person classes this year, which means Mexico's 30 million students will all be forced to learn remotely.
      Officials say the coronavirus pandemic -- which has claimed roughly 60,000 lives amid more than 550,000 confirmed cases -- is still too dangerous to allow kids back in the classroom.
        Remote learning is difficult even in developed countries. But in places like Mexico, taking that English or math class online isn't so easy -- only 56% of households have access to the internet, according to government statistics.
        So if the law requires all Mexican kids to be offered a public education, the government has decided the best way to do that is over the airwaves, with 93% of households having a television.

        Lights, camera ... classes

        Inside a brightly lit studio at Mexico City TV station Channel 11 last week, fifth grade teacher Omar Morales squinted as a young man with bright purple hair applied makeup to his face.
        "Ok, this is your floor director," a producer told him. "She is your eyes and ears out here, listen to what she tells you, look at the camera she tells you to look at and you'll be fine."
        This time last year, Morales was just a public school teacher setting up his classroom, getting ready to hug his kids on their first day of school.
        Now, part actor, part teacher, he practiced delivering a lesson plan about the elements of sound that will eventually be watched by millions.
        "It's challenging," he says modestly. "It's no longer 40 kids in a class where I know their names, passions, their favorite games. Here, I'm locked in a set, but I know there's millions of kids out there who still need that knowledge."
        Morales is part of an ambitious government plan to record a comprehensive set of lessons for all grade levels pre-K through high school and then broadcast them on TV.
        It has worked out agreements with different TV channels to broadcast that content, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, with different grade levels at different hours.