For the second consecutive summer, thousands of primary schools around Spain will be opening their doors to their students during the holidays to offer perhaps the only full meal they will get all day.
With the steady rise in poverty, austerity measures, and the stagnation of the economy (although we are told that things are on the up), 30 per cent of children in Spain – almost one in three – live in families living below the poverty line, according to UNICEF in a recent report.
A quarter of the population is unemployed and the gap between the rich and the poor is growing. Parents walk a tightrope trying to maintain the previous normality of lower-middle class existence for their children with a rapidly diminishing government safety net. The fall into the oblivion of poverty can be swift.
‘I don’t want them to grow up with the notion that they’re poor,’ says Catalina González talking to Inter Press Service, referring to her two young sons. Six months ago the three were evicted from a squat – an old apartment building – along with 12 other families who couldn’t afford to pay the rent. This family at least now has a home, but one that took months to clean and repair when they moved in.
Spain is now officially, and for the first time in its history, the country with the second-highest level of child poverty in the whole of Europe, only behind Romania.
Perhaps due to Spain’s precarious position, the country has not looked with favourable eyes on the arrival of immigrants from Romania seeking to make a better life for themselves.
As the Spanish idiom goes: when you see your neighbour’s beard being cut, start washing yours. In other words, do not suppose that the worst cannot happen closer to home. Spain’s social system is disintegrating at frightening speed. And the most vulnerable always lose.