The Community-Military Brigades (Bricomiles) created by the Nicolás Maduro regime in late June to repair and refurbish the country’s public schools and health centers are raising suspicions that soldiers with the brigades may get involved in educational matters. Members of the Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB), the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV), and civilians make up the brigades that are first tasked with evaluating the needs of the country’s schools and health centers to then execute the appropriate overhauls.
“A teacher cannot go to a barracks to clean it up. So, it’s wrong for a service member to go arrange a school, when the foundation of a school has logics and characteristics […] that a military officer […] is hardly going to understand,” Carlos Trapani, lawyer and chair of the Venezuelan Community Learning Center (Cecodap) told Diálogo on August 29. “Annexing the new brigades to the Armed Forces generates suspicions.”
These are not tasks that fall onto the FANB, the Venezuelan civil association Control Ciudadano said in a statement. In addition, “the FANB is synonymous with narcotrafficking and corruption,” Venezuelan newspaper La Vanguardia reported.
Political activism and allegiance have been affecting the country’s public education system since Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan platform Alianza Nacional Todos por la Educación (All for National Alliance for Education) said. There is evidence of partisan participation within the educational system as the forced display of portraits and sculptures of Chávez and Maduro demonstrate, the group says.
On its Facebook page, Argentine group El Cipayo, which tracks and condemns social injustices, posted a video where a military man is seen teaching children at a school slogans such as: “Chávez lives, the homeland continues.”
“It’s not a viable option to include service members in the classroom. A service member does not have the pedagogical tools for this. The service member goes into the logic of [martial] order; that logic does not work in the school,” Trapani said.
“We always receive through WhatsApp groups orders from the Ministry [the Peoples Ministry of Education] to teach history as the regime wants,” a teacher from a public school in Nueva Esparta state told independent Venezuelan platform La Tv Calle.
Basic enrollment dropped from 7.70 to 6.49 million students between 2018 and 2021. School absenteeism is linked to the socioeconomic factors that characterize the deep humanitarian crisis that the country is going through, Caracas’ Andrés Bello Catholic University (UCAB) indicates on its website.
The total number of active primary education teachers went from 669,000 to 502,000 during the same timeframe, UCAB says. It is estimated that teacher desertion has been around 98,300 — 68,000 of which have emigrated from the country due to regime’s policies.
In view of this scenario, tutoring outside schools has become an alternative. Almost 30 percent of school-age children, between 6 and 16 years old, receive an alternative form of education, Peruvian newspaper Gestión reported.
“You can create the best school infrastructure, but there are not enough teachers to meet the demand of children,” Trapani said. “There are unmotivated teachers who are deeply affected by […] the meager salaries and military meddling.”
Since 1997, Venezuela has not received any international assessment to measure and compare student learning in the areas of reading, writing, mathematics, and science, according to the magazine Debates of Venezuelan business school, Institute of advanced Management Studies.
“Children and adolescents have the right to an education that allows them to exploit their full creative potential, which is one of the purposes of education,” Trapani said. “Venezuela needs to implement systematic and periodic tests at the national and international level to measure the effectiveness of teaching processes.”
“Indoctrination has become one of the regime’s strategies… above all, to form beings whose model of thinking revolves around the interests of the socialist ideology imposed on the country […], which has been responsible for the destruction of the opportunities of hundreds of citizens,” La Tv Calle added.