El Salvadoran sisters attending online classes up a tree

1 / 3
Matilde (R) and Marlene Pimentel, sisters and university students, attend a virtual class from a treetop on a hill, where they reach internet signal, in El Tigre, El Salvador, on August 21, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. (AFP / MARVIN RECINOS)
2 / 3
Matilde (R) and Marlene Pimentel, sisters and university students, attend a virtual class from a treetop on a hill, where they reach internet signal, in El Tigre, El Salvador, on August 21, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. (AFP / MARVIN RECINOS)
3 / 3
Matilde (bottom) and Marlene Pimentel, sisters and university students, climb a tree to try to reach internet signal to attend a virtual class, in El Tigre, El Salvador, on August 21, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. (AFP / MARVIN RECINOS)
Short Url
Updated 28 August 2020

El Salvadoran sisters attending online classes up a tree

  • The sisters walk a kilometer along a slippery path to reach the peak of the mountain
  • When not studying, the sisters sell bread at the weekend to help out their father

EL TIGRE, El Salvador: Two sisters in western El Salvador are taking their love of learning to great heights: every day they climb a mountain, then scramble up an olive tree to get a signal to access their online college lessons.
Thousands of El Salvadorans living in rural areas have faced the same juggling act since March, when authorities closed schools and universities to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.
It’s especially hard to get a strong phone signal to access the Internet in the El Tigre canton, near the border with Guatemala, where the Matilde and Marlene Pimentel live.
“For most of us living in rural areas it’s difficult (to study.) There’s no (Internet) connection,” Matilde, 22, who’s studying mathematics in college, told AFP.
She’s joined on her daily escapade by 19-year-old Marlene, who is studying statistics.
The seventh and eighth of 10 children, these ladies are aiming to be the first members of their family to graduate from the state University of El Salvador.
Their touching story came to light when police officer Castro Ruiz stumbled across Matilde “in the middle of nowhere” while patrolling the El Tigre mountain.
Finding the young woman on a path leading to a lush olive tree, “my first impression was that something had happened to her,” Ruiz told AFP.
When he asked her what had happened, her reply stunned him: “I just want to study.”




Matilde (bottom) and Marlene Pimentel, sisters and university students, climb a tree to try to reach internet signal to attend a virtual class, in El Tigre, El Salvador, on August 21, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. (AFP / MARVIN RECINOS)

Touched by such a “positive story,” the officer took a photo and published it on Facebook, where it went viral.
To reach the peak of the mountain in the middle of the rainy season, the sisters walk a kilometer along a slippery path while avoiding snakes hiding in the undergrowth.
They tackle the journey weighed down by a foldable table and chairs, while trying to keep the rain off their heads with an umbrella.
“This is the only way to get a little bit of a signal, and sometimes even here it doesn’t work,” Marlene told AFP, speaking from her perch in the olive tree.
She admits to being afraid of falling out of the tree, and scared of the “venemous animals” lurking in the grass in this lush area.
When not studying, the sisters sell bread at the weekend to help out their father, who grows sweetcorn, beans and squash.
Erick Palacios, a university student in Ojo de Agua, around 20 kilometers west of the capital San Salvador, has to climb a hill strewn with rocks and waste to access the Internet.
“I came here because I realized it was clear ... it gave me a signal,” said the 20-year-old, who is studying to get a degree in communications at the private Jose Matias Delgado university.
Perched on three bricks and covered by an umbrella, Palacios admits that taking classes in this way is “uncomfortable” because of the mosquitos he must fend off.
He’s decided to visit other students in Ojo de Agua to collect signatures to present to Internet providers so they can see how many “people are interested in a good service.”
El Salvador is divided almost in half lengthwise by volcanoes that disrupt mobile phone signals.
According to Internet World Status, almost 60 percent of El Salvador’s 6.6 million resident use the Internet.
The coronavirus pandemic has left 463 million children worldwide unable to attend online classes, a UNICEF report out Wednesday said.


First UAE sighting of one of the world’s rarest birds in Abu Dhabi 

Updated 20 September 2020

First UAE sighting of one of the world’s rarest birds in Abu Dhabi 

  • Known as a Steppe Whimbrel, the bird is estimated to have a global population of only around 100
  • It is believed to have travelled in time for the autumn bird migration

DUBAI: One of the rarest birds in the world has been spotted in Abu Dhabi by two members of the Emirates Bird Records Committee (EBRC), according to state news agency WAM. 
Known as a Steppe Whimbrel, the bird - estimated to have a global population of only around 100 - was seen by Oscar Campbell and Simon Lloyd at the Saadiyat Beach Golf Course, WAM reported on Saturday.
Believed to have travelled in time for the autumn bird migration, the Steppe Whimbrel is an extremely rare sub-species of the widespread Whimbrel, which regularly passes through the Emirates in spring and autumn.
The Steppe Whimbrel seen in Abu Dhabi is believed to have been born this year, making it the first time a juvenile Steppe Whimbrel has been spotted anywhere in the world, according to WAM.
“On August 29, we were studying around 20 whimbrels on the Saadiyat Beach golf course. We were stunned when one flew off showing the distinctive white wings, clearly different from the other birds,” Campbell and Lloyd told WAM. 
“We immediately realized the potential significance of this so we concentrated on observing the bird and obtaining photographs, allowing us to check the key identification features,” they said.
Campbell and Lloyd then shared their photographs with world’s top expert on Steppe Whimbrels, Gary Allport, who confirmed their findings. 
“The discovery of a Steppe Whimbrel in Abu Dhabi is remarkable in itself, and confirms our suspicion that the migration route of the sub-species passes through the Arabian peninsula region,” Allport said. 
“What is even more remarkable is that this is the first time ever, anywhere in the world, that a juvenile Steppe Whimbrel has been seen in the field…It’s an amazing find,” he added. 
The Saadiyat Beach Golf Course management was delighted with the discovery. 
“When you look at the significance of sighting the Steppe Whimbrel in Abu Dhabi, its history and the subspecies actually being declared extinct in 1995, it is pretty amazing,” Clinton Southorn, Cluster Director of Agronomy for managers Troon Golf, told WAM.
“This is one of the reasons the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club has worked hard to achieve its Audubon certification and showcase the positive environmental impact the course can have on the environment,” he added.