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Summer, children and inequality
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Summer, children and inequality

Sahrawi children from the western Sahara have been arriving all week to spend the summer in Malaga. These little ones will leave their daily reality of life in refugee camps to swim in the sea for the first time in their lives, splash in the pool and eat ice cream, writes columnist Cristina Vallejo

Cristina Vallejo

Malaga

Friday, 5 July 2024, 15:36

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Throughout the week Sahrawi children from the western Sahara have been arriving to spend the summer in Malaga, Andalucía and across Spain, welcomed by generous families committed to helping this landless people. These little ones will leave their daily reality of life in refugee camps installed in one of the most desolate and inhospitable landscapes on earth to swim in the sea for the first time in their lives, splash in the pool, eat ice cream, accumulate good protein to feed their bones and have medical checkups. The weeks they will spend among us will be like a small oasis in their desert. But then they will have to go back. And they will return happy because of how happy they will have been here and because they will arrive home with euro bills sewn to their clothes and with a backpack full of things that their host families will have given them and that will be of great help in their Sahrawi homes for many weeks.

Summer offers a beautiful break for these children, but if it seems to promise to be equally benevolent and with similar opportunities for play and enjoyment for all of them, in reality it is not so: inequality emerges even more starkly in the long days of summer.

Fewer children from the Sahara come every year, because there are fewer and fewer families willing to take them in - and others will have to stay in a desert that in July and August offers temperatures that do not even allow you to look out onto the street if you do not want to end up with your face literally scorched.

In Spain, some little ones will take long trips with their parents, soak up strange cultures and exciting experiences, listen to sophisticated conversations on a par with their university-educated parents and their friends about the best works of art in the world, savour new textures and flavours, take naps in rooms full of books and with music in the background that will educate them almost without realising it. They may even go to a camp to learn languages or a sport, or both, and meet children like themselves, with well-connected fathers and mothers. In childhood, social networks are created - the real ones, not the virtual ones - that start entire careers.

These children will stop going to school and doing homework during the summer, but they will continue to learn in the best possible way, unintentionally, naturally, in the privileged environment in which they are fortunate enough to grow up in.

Others will swap the classroom, notebooks and homework that will have made them equal with the kids most gifted by the god of chance, for a square in their ramshackle neighbourhood where they will place a plastic pool and a hose to cool off, with nothing else in the environment to stimulate their neurons because their fathers and mothers only have enough to cover the holidays supplementing their main job with another that brings home extra income.

If our homeland is our childhood, it is because it is there where everyone has come face to face with their social class after closing their books in June.

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