By Luke Kenton
After a staggering 112 days of learning in the darkness, these children were sent into a frenzy when the power miraculously turned on in their school, causing them to scream and dance in the corridors.
When the devastating Hurricane Maria struck on September 20th 2017, the majority of Puerto Rico was left without power – and the Academia Bautista de Puerto Nuevo, in San Juan, was no exception.
However, on January 11th – after 112 days of darkness – the 950 students attending the San Juan School joined together in a chorus of sheer euphoria, as they jumped, clapped, screamed and danced at the sight of their classrooms suddenly being illuminated.
Teachers too joined in with the jubilations as their months of improvising lessons and tests with limited resources, finally came to an end – with a few even appearing to shed tears of relief.
Feeling ‘blessed’ to be one of the few with access to electricity, despite four months having passed since the hurricane, administrative director of the school Josué Gómez said: “It was definitely an emotional moment for everyone.
“Working in a school, you see and hear a number of stories every day, but this was truly something else.
“School days had to be made shorter and teachers couldn’t use any sort of technology.
“It’s truly incredible the effort everyone at the school put in to continue working, especially considering that some of our students had to live like this not just at home, but at school as well.
“After 112 days, you certainly become tired with the situation.
“I was in my office when I heard the screams and when I realised what was happening, of course it was a moment of pure joy.
“But, at the same time, it’s kind of heart-breaking to see how children reacted to what is supposed to be a basic thing, that they hadn’t had for over 100 days.”
Striking across Puerto Rico in September, the category four storm initially claimed the lives of 64 people, but now the figure is now expected to be closer to 1,000.
Nearly Four months on, 40 percent of the island remains without access to electricity.
Josue said: “It was a sincere reaction, it was as if all of their wishes had been granted at once – the celebrations still haven’t stopped.
“The service though is very unstable, so every day that we are able to press the switches and see the lights [come on] is a blessing, since so many are not so lucky, four months on.
“Even though we can say everything is ‘normal’ now, it’s still a difficult situation, since we have staff and students who still don’t have their ‘regular lives’ back.
“Some of them lost their homes, cars or still are without electricity – we have to keep this in mind every day.
“We see this as an opportunity to have eyes back on Puerto Rico, so that people don’t forget that we’re still struggling with what should be basic, almost four months on.”