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Retired professor gives free classes to an immigrant on the street

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Used with Permission. EL CORREO | Maika Salguero

Violeta Tejera - published on 12/16/21

His classroom is the street, and his student is a migrant who arrived on a boat.

César de Miguel is an industrial engineer and now-retired university professor. For years he taught Computer Science at the University of Deusto, in Spain. Now, for the last two years he’s been teaching again—but this time, in a very different context. His classroom is the street, and his student is a migrant who arrived in Spain on a boat. The story of this unusual teacher-student relationship was picked up by Spanish news sources, including Antena 3.

The student

The beneficiary of these classes is named Evans Isibor, and he lives on the streets of Bilbao, in northern Spain. He’s a 30-year-old Nigerian who arrived in Spain on a boat, like thousands of others, seeking to reach the coast and carve out a better future for himself. He had to leave his family in Nigeria and wants to learn a trade so he can work to send money to his family.

A beggar with study notes

Evans begs sitting on the ground on cardboard boxes next to a bank branch in the city center of Bilbao. It was there that he met his teacher, César de Miguel.

One day the retired professor took notice of Isibor, after passing by many times. He wasn’t just any beggar; while he was begging he had notes in his hand and was studying. This was what caught Miguel’s attention. He stopped and became interested in the Nigerian’s story. Isibor is trying to graduate from high school and study a vocational training program to fulfill his dream: to work in construction. He wants to get a good job with which he can leave the street and support his family.

Math classes on the street

Miguel didn’t hesitate to sit down at his side and to lend him his help and knowledge. Since then, Isibor has been taking math classes from him, the subject he finds hardest. Miguel instructs him on a regular basis, sitting next to him on the street, near the bank branch where he first saw Isibor studying.

Some days are better, and some are worse. The hunger and the difficult situation that Isibor is going through sometimes discourage him and bring him down. But at that moment, the words of encouragement and knowledge from his tutor keep Isibor from falling apart, and he continues his efforts to graduate. Delighted with the help, he admits that sometimes he gets nervous, because his new teacher is demanding.

Declaration of intent

Isibor is clear: he wants to work. He wants to feel useful and, above all, to earn his own money and bread for a living. As he explains, and as can be seen on the sign that accompanies him on the street, he’s asking for work, not money. It may go unnoticed by many people, but it’s a statement of intent. That’s what he wants: to work, to get by on his own; to feel fulfilled and complete; to earn a living by the sweat of his brow and be able to improve his situation, fulfilling the dream that led him to leave his country on a boat. He knows that this situation of homelessness is going to be temporary, so he’s begging for help to live while he finishes his training with Miguel’s help.

Vocation as a teacher

Teacher: that’s the word that defines Miguel. He’s a teacher, a former university professor … but above all he has the vocation to teach those who need it. To teach those who, due to life circumstances, haven’t been able to finish their studies or go to university. Miguel responds to that call, the call of a young man on the street who’s looking for a future. A future that Miguel can—and wants to—bring closer.

It’s the selfless help and the commitment of a man who seeks the good of others without expecting anything in return, an image that reminds us of that passage in the Bible in Matthew 25 in which Jesus describes how some at Last Judgment will ask, “When did we see you hungry and give you food, or thirsty and give you drink?” Jesus says that He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these my brethren, you did for me.”

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