“Educational Catastrophe” in Venezuela

Ricardo Guanipa D’erizans/Diálogo | 18 September 2019

Transnational Threats

A man walks next to a building at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas, on March 12, 2019. Classes were suspended after a massive power outage affected almost the entire country. (Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP)

Empty classrooms, teachers on strike, and derelict buildings are some of the consequences of the economic crisis in Venezuela. Only days after the 2018-2019 school year ended, Bolivia Suárez, an opposition lawmaker from the National Assembly (AN, in Spanish) of Venezuela, said that the country is going through an “educational catastrophe.”

The legislator and member of AN’s Social Development Commission said in July that public schools have completed only 70 percent of the school calendar, which means that students missed more than two months of classes. Lack of water, power outages, and chaotic public transport contributed to the collapse of education, the lawmaker said.

“What this regime is doing with education is a crime,” Suárez told the press.

“We have collateral problems such as transportation, the student cafeteria, insecurity due to the lack of budget to hire security personnel, maintenance, and equipment,” Pablo Aure, professor and secretary general of advanced studies at the University of Carabobo School of Law, in the city of Valencia, Venezuela, told Diálogo. “Under this model, our institutions are practically doomed to close.”

Many students and teachers have abandoned the classrooms. In September 2018, the Faculty Association at the Central University of Venezuela alerted AN that only 10 to 15 percent of the students had started classes in the 2018-2019 school year. Raquel Figueroa, Democratic Unit national coordinator for AN’s Educational Sector, said that more than 271,000 teachers, or 50 percent of those on the payroll of the Ministry of Education, had left the educational system.

In May 2018, 14 Venezuelan nongovernmental organizations denounced in a joint statement “the continuing attacks of the Venezuelan State” against university professors, as well as attacks on academic freedom and university autonomy.

“Every institution where ideas are debated, where knowledge and research are generated, is obviously the enemy of this type of tyrannical and dictatorial government system,” said Aure. “The regime destroyed public institutions, including universities. They are trying to close them, indirectly blocking their budgets with the poor salaries our workers have, banning elections in autonomous universities, and persecuting us as professors.”

According to the new teacher wage table the government presented in January 2019, a teacher with 23 years of service, working 40 hours per week, would earn a little more than $3 (based on the exchange rate of August 27).

Educational institutions “still stand today because of the efforts of some teachers who do their work out of love, even using their own money, what little they have, to buy markers for blackboards,” Hasler Iglesias, former president of the Federation of University Centers at the Central University of Venezuela, between 2015 and 2016, told Diálogo. “Unfortunately today, teachers have to be absent from classrooms to stand in line for hours to buy a bag of flour, bread, soap, diapers... and that also affects the quality of education in Venezuela.”

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