These children will become doctors, hairdressers, cooks, rickshaw drivers, photographers – any number of destinies await them. There are potential millionaires, celebrities and probably criminals too, and actually some of them may already have died or had children of their own. — Julian Germain.
Most of the people in these 10-year-old photos will now be in their twenties, but if they were to return to their own classrooms, they’d see that very little has changed since they left.
The Formica desks, mint-green chairs and sea-green chalk boards are the same. Something else that also hasn’t changed is the diversity of nationalities in the classroom.
I recall there was a real influx of migrants from Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Far East. Some of the schools had entire classes of kids who’d only just landed and were being taught the language – interesting times.
Perhaps some things have changed, though: the children’s clothes, their hairstyles and the importance placed on such tribal identifiers.
Ten years ago, Facebook was a fairly new concept, and Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist. These kids weren’t swamped in the distresses of social media and they probably didn’t even own a mobile phone yet.
These children were taught in some of Madrid’s first bilingual classrooms. The auxiliares de conversación programme was fairly new back when these photographs were taken, having been launched by the PP government just four years earlier.
The children’s exposure to Brits and Americans was just beginning, and their English language skills would be developing quickly. The younger classes will really have benefited from this programme, while many of the older classes had just missed out.
The kids’ outlook on life was different to what we’d expect of children today: these pictures were taken just months before the latest financial crisis hit Spain. The children in these classrooms were on the cusp of an optimistic future, and there’s no doubt whatsoever that this will have been profoundly stunted as a result.
But more than any other differences, there are now more foreign children in our classrooms than there were 10 years ago. These children of today are the Spain of tomorrow – a diverse, multilingual, globally minded army of future influencers.
Thank you to Julian Germain for the use of his images, for his help in creating this article, and for 13 years (and counting) of inspiration.