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education in boliviaEducation in Bolivia appears to be lacking: one in every seven children in Bolivia does not complete primary school, and the majority of Bolivians never go on to secondary school. In fact, over one million Bolivians over the age of 15 are illiterate. This lack of education contributes to the overall poverty Bolivians face. What factors are contributing to this lack of education? Here are the top four:

    1. Classes are mainly taught in Spanish, but some children learned to speak Quechua and Aymara at home. Many children, especially those from rural areas, cannot understand what is being taught. Being taught a second language in school is also not typical. It is easy to see why kids would become discouraged and decide to drop-out.
    2. Due to widespread poverty and not prioritizing education, schools can be very run-down with little to no proper classroom materials. While there is a lack of resources in Bolivia in general, schools are ranked at the bottom when it comes to addressing the country’s needs.
    3. The poverty in Bolivia also affects the teachers—they often go on strike to protest for higher wages and other related issues. This leaves children without teachers for sometimes days or even weeks at a time.
    4. The primary reason for a child not being in school and the shrinking literacy rate in Bolivia is poverty. Children in urban areas are able to go to school on average for 9.4 years, while those in rural locations only make it on average for 4.2 years. Many children have to work and help support their impoverished family rather than go to school.

Some changes to education in Bolivia have been made, however, with the help of nonprofits. Many organizations have helped provide classrooms and classroom materials in decent condition. One organization, the Foundation for Sustainable Development, helps provide training, tutoring, childcare and workshops to assist Bolivians with their educational needs. When given support and better learning conditions, children typically stay in school and even begin to learn at higher levels than their peers who are not given that support.

If their educational needs are met, they are more likely to succeed. Bolivian children should receive the education they need to thrive.

– Melissa Binns

Sources: Bolivia Bella, Foundation for Sustainable Development
Photo: Netpublikationer

Education in BoliviaThe history of Bolivia is a clear representation of how education can be used as a tool for maintaining political control.

Education in Bolivia was first formalized by Spanish-speaking Europeans who colonized the Iberian states occupying present-day Bolivia. In order to keep power from returning to the indigenous people after the liberation of these Iberian states, Bolivians of European descent used education as a tool to eradicate indigenous languages, traditions and ultimately, identity.

They believed they were “remaking Indians into productive peasants” and wanted to integrate them into campesino culture so that it would grow dominant over the indigenous culture. Education in this context was used as a method of control and subordination; it promoted prejudice against any language or culture that differed from that of the hegemonic group.

The schools set up for these indigenous groups did not teach its students traditional subjects such as arithmetic, reading or social studies. Instead, they focused on agriculture and pushed literacy to the edge of the curriculum. Reading and writing was assumed to be useless for people meant to work the fields—even potentially dangerous. In a world where knowledge is power, the ruling class knew that literacy among the working class would only undermine their authority.

The revolution of 1952 changed the power structure in Bolivia and eventually led to the redevelopment of the education system.

A new education act unified all people under one system, taking the place of the previous system where the working class and upper class had separate schools. However, students were only taught in the national language from that point on—a change that was intended to help integrate the indigenous population into the national Spanish-speaking culture, but instead further marginalized them. Indigenous children forced into Castellan-taught classes could not understand their teachers properly and often dropped out. Furthermore, teachers were poorly trained and classes often focused on memorizing rather than practical learning.

The result of these educational practices is a Bolivian population that is only 50 percent literate and an elite educated minority. It is estimated that 70 percent of the rural populate and 30 percent of the urban population are illiterate.

However, this is not necessarily a result of lack of funding. Bolivia devotes 23 percent of its annual budget to educational expenditures—a greater investment than most South American countries usually spend. The problem more likely has to do with lack of effective spending, to which the Bolivian government has responded by decentralizing spending on education in order to meet the diverse needs of local communities.

Since 1994, this decentralization has significantly improved dropout rates. More children are going to school across the nation; however, schools still seem to be lacking in quality teachers and relevant curriculum. This can be observed by the high rate of secondary school graduates who want to attend university but must take an entire year’s worth of extra courses in order to bring their knowledge up to speed with international standards.

Bolivia still has a long way to go in terms of improving its education system in order to substantially increase literacy rates and to help its students acquire the skills needed to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

– Shenel Ozisik

Sources: FOCAL, Journal of Intercontinental Communication, Foundation for Sustainable Development
Photo: Lab

Combatting Malnutrition Bolivia
Malnutrition is devastating Bolivia, with over 75 percent of households lacking access to basic food items. Conditions are much worse in the indigenous and rural communities, especially among children and pregnant women. Almost a quarter of Bolivian children suffer from hunger, while one in three children under the age of five suffers from stunting — a result of chronic malnutrition. Bolivia has the second-highest stunting rates in Latin America and the Caribbean, indicating the urgent need for food security solutions.

Furthermore, among women of childbearing age, nearly 27 percent are considered so anemic that they are at risk of passing iron deficiency to their unborn children. Anemia is often the result of poor dieting, which in certain parts of Bolivia is based on cheap carbohydrates such as rice and other starchy foods high in fat.

In response to this long-standing reality, the Government of Bolivia established a National Zero Malnutrition program in 2006 to combat severe malnutrition among the most vulnerable populations. The nonprofit organization Action Against Hunger has taken on parts of the plan and has aimed to provide long-term food security and agricultural support while strengthening the healthcare system to better serve children who are chronically malnourished.

By working closely with local communities, Action Against Hunger is able to propose alternative methods to deal with seasonal hunger, including diversifying livelihood options, promoting diet diversification and ensuring affordability of more nutritious foods.

In addition, the organization has provided sustainable solutions for Bolivia’s ongoing drought problem. In 2010, the country was facing a severe drought that caused widespread water scarcity and staple crop damage. Action Against Hunger immediately secured water supplies for over 50 communities, while also helping over 4,000 farmers retool their destroyed harvests. Moreover, the team is working on community-based agricultural projects in Rio Grande’s lower basin, and other areas prone to drought, by promoting techniques that maintain soil moisture and avoid soil destruction. Some methods include demonstrating proper crop rotation techniques and teaching ways to overcome livestock overgrazing. These projects are already making great strides in combating malnutrition in Bolivia and are paving the way to a healthier and more prosperous country.

Leeda Jewayni

Sources: FSD International, IADB, Action Against Hunger
Photo: BCPS

child labor
In a legal decision, Bolivian officials have changed the legal working age from 14 to 10, thereby becoming the first nation to legalize child labor.

Despite provisions for children who are working at such a young age, including their being supervised by a parent if they are under the age of 12 or that they must continue school, the legalization of child labor still violates the minimum working age protocol declared by the International Labor Organization. It is still “‘an abandonment of a child’s right to a childhood.”

Moreover, the Guardian reports that there are only 78 child labor inspectors and over 800,000 currently working. The promise that the child protection requirements for these new labor laws will be consistently upheld is unlikely.

Co-sponsor of the bill and deputy Javier Zavaleta told Time Magazine that he supported the bill in the hopes that it would help decrease the amount of poverty in Bolivia. He said that “extreme poverty is one of the causes, not the main one, of child labor, so our goal is to eliminate child labor by 2020. While it is ambitious, it is possible.”

Human rights activists, however, find it suspect that these officials are trying to justify child labor by claiming it will ultimately end child labor.

Children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, Jo Becker, told Time Magazine that “child labor perpetuates the cycle of poverty” and that “the Bolivian government should invest in policies and programs to end child labor, not to support it.”

Becker also explained that when children from poor families are sent to work instead of school, they are more likely to end up with low-wage jobs later in life, thus continuing the cycle of poverty and the misconception that child labor will help end it.

– Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: The Guardian, Forbes, TIME
Photo: VNews

Bolivian_Income_Gap
Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. It possesses the largest ratio of indigenous people, who make up 62 percent of the population. Most of these indigenous groups suffer from poverty—over 74 percent are poor. The indigenous groups also make up most of the rural areas, where the greatest amount of poverty in the region is found. The unemployment rate remains high, with 8 percent of the population without jobs, increasing poverty in rural areas.

Bolivia’s income distribution is one of the most uneven in the world, ranking second in unequal income distribution. The land is rich in minerals and resources, but the elite Spanish ancestry dominates the economic system. Most Bolivians are low income farmers and traders. There has been long running tension over the rich natural gas resources by exploitation and export, which continues to strengthen the Bolivian income gap.

Social unrest in Bolivia is growing with the tax reform. The inflation rate is controlled by the tax reform and causes more tension within Bolivia’s economy. These issues in the economic system are creating poverty that affects groups like the indigenous people. Poverty can lead to inequality, which limits human rights and mobility through different strata of class, causing a separation of income.

Throughout history, indigenous people have been the poorest and most excluded from social economic growth. Access to basic health care and necessities is limited due to isolation. The high fertility rate among the indigenous people of Bolivia has increased their population to over 5 million people. The increase is so drastic because of the lack of access to education and health care needs.

Bolivia sees the highest rate of child malnutrition, particularly among indigenous cultures. World Vision estimates that over a quarter of the children under the age of five are malnourished and do not have access to proper health care.

Recent organizations, like World Vision, have formed local centers in Bolivia to help monitor the well-being of these children. This includes the implementation of training for local health care workers to bring awareness to kids to stay safe from different forms of child maltreatment.

 

Causes of poverty.

 

Most of the women living in rural areas have limited education or training for employment. There is also a lack of health services and education in the health sector for women. This restricts the growth of the economy by preventing these women from bettering their futures and the economy.

The rural areas continue to suffer from poverty. With the deficiency of natural resource management and limited approach to technology in rural areas, infrastructures such as roads will be neglected. Without the proper road system, isolation of indigenous groups will increase, causing lack of job opportunities and access to education.

These regions of Bolivia are facing obstacles in the economic development in many of the indigenous groups. The advancement of these obstacles relies on policies to protect the economic growth in the rural regions, where indigenous groups reside, and to help increase labor productivity.

— Rachel Cannon

Sources: BBC, UNICEFGeorgetown University, World Vision
Photo: Next Starfish

Bolivia Minimum Wage
In the wake of recent national economic gains, Bolivian President Evo Morales has promised that the nation’s minimum wage will increase by 10 percent.  The move is a hotly debated one concerning Bolivian unions, and the employer federation has been embroiled in the debate for some time.  The labor unions applaud it, saying it would equalize things between the “haves and have-nots,” while the Confederation of Private Entrepreneurs (CEPB) spurned it and contended that it would increase taxation.  A BBC report also notes that President Morales is in an election year and may have had political reasons for siding with union wishes.

The same BBC piece also points out that “Bolivia’s gross domestic product tripled to $27 [billion] in 2012 since Mr. Morales took office in January 2006, according to World Bank figures.”  Changes to the national Constitution and increasing the role of the state contributed to the gains, along with “high commodity prices and a prudent macroeconomic policy.”  The World Bank also states that public debt dropped vastly, bolstering the banks in the process and alleviating national poverty to a great degree.

However, despite the gains nearly half of all Bolivians still live in poverty.  The unpredictability of commodity pricing can affect and potentially reverse positive gains, so private industry must play a more substantial economic role.  Bolivia’s informal economy, where a large portion of the population finds work, “results in lower productivity” according to the World Bank.  Lagging infrastructure is also a deterrent to further and faster progress.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is projecting slower economic growth in Latin America in 2014.  “Weak investment and subdued demand for the region’s exports held back activity in 2013… For 2015, the IMF projects a modest pickup, to 3 percent. The key risk is a sharper decline in commodity prices caused by weaker demand.”  More specifically, growth in Bolivia “is projected to fall sharply in 2014, to about 2.75 percent  from nearly 6 percent in 2013.”

President Morales may be trying to draw support from his political base with his pledge to increase the Bolivian minimum wage.  In 2013, Morales was publicly inveighed when per diems paid to the families of Morales and his vice president were worth “more than twice the minimum monthly wage,” according to an AFP report.  The money covered travel expenses when the families accompanied the leaders on official trips.  Political rival Adrian Oliva likened the per diems to stealing and contended that Morales had abandoned his socialist roots.

The science behind hiking minimum wage rates is contentious to say the least, often crossing the proverbial bridge from impartial observation to political overtones.  However, the work of UC Irvine economist David Neumark and William Wascher of the Federal Reserve Board can’t be easily disputed.  A Forbes report said they “determined that 85 percent of the best research points to a loss of jobs following a minimum wage increase.”  Empirically, the wage increases aimed at eliminating poverty also quash private sector employment and hiring; a study in the Journal of Human Resources posits that higher minimum wage can increase poverty.

What lies ahead for Bolivia and the rest of the Latin American region remains to be seen as outside economic forces control the commodity rates that are so woven into recent economic gains.  In a race for political power and reelection, Bolivia’s Evo Morales has evidently chosen to adhere to the populist vision that won him initial favor, but at what cost?

Do large-scale informal economic gains qualify as a national victory when nearly half of all Bolivians are still considered poor?  Does alienating the private sector through a push for more reforms mean greater prosperity and long-term economic growth and stabilization?  What is clear is empirical evidence suggesting that minimum wage hikes do more harm than good, even in a strong commodities market.  President Morales may be best served to explore other options that appeal not only to national unions and workers but to the firms who employ them, thereby increasing private investment and paving the proverbial road out of Bolivian poverty.

– Dave Smith

Sources: BBC, WorldBank, Free Malaysia Today, Global Post, Forbes
Photo: Interet General Info

Bolivia_Raises_Minimum_Wage
Following recent labor union protests in Bolivia, demanding an increase in the minimum wage, President Evo Morales has acquiesced to their demands by increasing the Bolivian minimum wage 20 percent from 1,200 Bolivianos (around $175) to 1,488 Bolivianos (about $215). This increase in the minimum wage has come as a result of a small but concerted effort on behalf of the Bolivian Central Labor Union to agitate for change. Workers were concerned that their wages were not keeping up with inflation, which is currently sitting at 6.5 percent.

Morales explained the reason for the increase in the minimum wage is the economic growth Bolivia has experienced recently, which grew at a rate of 5.2 percent in 2012.

The leader of the Bolivian Central Labor Union, Juan Carlos Trujillo, stated that he asked Morales to recognize “the need and the obligation to create a salary structure which is based on the country’s growth and the recognition that the riches of Bolivia have to be shared between the haves and the have-nots in equal measure.”

Other groups were not so pleased with the announced rise in the minimum wage, saying that the move would simply result in workers paying more through taxes. Moreover, the move can also be seen as political maneuvering and as an attempt to curry favor amongst the workers in time for presidential elections in October, when Morales is going to run for a third term.

The original proposal by the government was for the minimum wage to be increased by 10 percent, until trade unions negotiated a higher rise. Analysts have noted that the increase in the minimum wage would not affect the majority of workers since most people earn above 1,400 Bolivianos (about $203.) The rise would affect house workers and trash men.

Morales himself was a notable leader in the cocalero trade union movement for indigenous coca growers prior to being elected president. Since being elected president in 2006, Morales has helped triple Bolivia’s gross domestic product to $27 billion.

– Jeff Meyer

Sources: La Razon, BBC, Bolivia Information Forum
Photo: Nation of Change

Financial Reform Law in Bolivia
Last August, Bolivian President Evo Morales signed a bill that would reform the country’s financial sector. The reform bill has more than 550 articles and is expected to force the private sector banks in the country to become more competitive as interest rate ceilings and mandatory-lending quotas are implemented. The law will boost the competitiveness of state-owned bank Banco Unión and the many microfinance institutions operating in the region.

The reform is also intended to focus on financial inclusion and reducing economic inequality, an issue that is extremely important for Morales and his large indigenous following. The private banks in the region will need to become more efficient as well, but fortunately for the banks the Bolivian government has been implementing the changes gradually. It is unknown how much the reform will cut into the bank’s profitability.

During the last few years, however, Bolivia has enacted harsh taxes designed to reduce its “excess” profitability. The private banks’ average return on equity fell from 21% in 2007 to 17.5% in 2012, then to 14% in 2013. This latest dip came from the imposition of additional taxes on extraordinary earnings and a tax on exchanges related to foreign exchange.

The law also states that at least 60% of a bank’s loan portfolio should go to financing the productive and social sectors. This will be difficult for Bolivia’s banks, however, as they are currently focused on specific markets. Despite this new requirement, the government is giving the banks a period of two years to four years to implement it.

Another requirement states that the interest rate ceiling on loans for houses to be set at 5.5 to 6.5%, a figure that depends on the value of the house. Banks currently set the loan ceiling to a figure of 7 to 8%. This loan ceiling is designed to allow more people to be able to better afford a house and is a part of the movement towards more financial inclusion in Bolivia.

Bolivia’s private banks should be able to weather this new reform with continued profitability as the Bolivian economy is buoyed by its 6.5% growth rate in 2013 and its credit growth of 20%.

– Jeff Meyer

Sources: BNamericas, BNamericas, laRazon
Photo: The Telegraph

Bolivia
Bolivian President Evo Morales has announced the first steps towards building the first nuclear reactor in the country during his annual state of the union address to the Bolivian Congress. Morales stressed that the nuclear program will be developed for peaceful purposes with the help of France, Iran and Argentina.

Evo Morales called the nuclear development project a priority for Bolivia and stressed that the South American country “will not remain excluded from this technology, which belongs to all humankind.”

If Bolivia follows through on its claims, it will join the ranks of only three other Latin American nations with functioning nuclear programs. Argentina, Brazil and Mexico have had nuclear programs for peaceful purposes ever since the Treaty of Tlateloco in 1967 established a nuclear-weapon-free zone across Latin America.

Bolivia stated that Iran, France and Argentina had agreed to aid the country in its efforts to establish a nuclear weapons program.

Evo Morales is the first indigenous president of Bolivia and is known as a bombastic critic of the United States and its policies throughout Latin America. He expelled the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2011 and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2013 as an effort to reduce subversive US influence in the country.

Earlier this year, Bolivia became one of the last states in South America to have its own telecommunications satellite when China stepped in to help with the launch of the satellite, named after Tupak Katari, an indigenous folk hero who fought against Spanish colonialism.

The telecommunications satellite will help reduce the cost of communications and improve access to the Internet for many Bolivians living in rural areas. The move is also a further step towards increased independence from the West that President Morales would like to see more of.

In spite of these campaigns, Bolivia is expected to continue on a path of energy diversification by investing in explorations for oil and uranium reserves in Potosí.

Jeff Meyer

Sources: BBC, Latin Post, BBC, UPI
Photo: Polygrafi

Bolivia
The South-American country of Bolivia has struggled as on the poorest countries in South America. Wealth inequality is a critical issue for the country of 10 million. 65 percent of the population resides in poverty, with “nearly 40 percent” of the population in extreme poverty.

Bolivia boasts a elevated population of indigenous South Americans, who are the most dangerously affected by poverty. Bolivians of Spanish descent dominate the political and economic life of the nation, depriving the indigenous population of many economic opportunities. Many of the impoverished residents of Bolivia subside on “subsistence” farming, and working as “miners, small traders or artisans.”

Bolivia is home to a well-built informal economy, which has distressed the primary economy of Bolivia. The indigenous population which is perilously unemployed, survive through their own means, not effectively participating in the national economic structure.

The nation is habitat to countless natural resources, chiefly natural gas. Despite the abundance of natural resources, the nation is more often than not exploited by foreign corporations and by it’s own political elites. The profits from such ventures rarely make it back to the poorer residents, allowing for a widening gap in income inequality.

The rural population which are primarily American Indians are critically malnourished, unable to access adequate health-care, less enrolled in education, and suffer from a lack of infrastructure. Urban areas suffer less from poverty, while rural areas such as Pando and Chuquisaca have the highest rates of poverty. Urban areas are not free of poverty though.

Urban populations suffer from “low quality employment” and the downward spiral of income levels. People are finding it complicated to find work, and those who work, are making less capital. Bolivia has struggled with employing its population.

The country remains primarily invested in “natural resource-based” exports as its economic crutch. This has led to many people unemployed as this economic base does not require many people to function properly.

Few educational opportunities for poorer residents have prevented many citizens from escaping extreme poverty. The country has not taken advantage of it’s ‘human capital.” With many residents not gaining proper higher education, or even primary education, has resulted in a poorly trained populace who can not work in many sectors besides the labor sector.

With many jobs not available in that sector, employment opportunities remain few and far in-between.

The country remains stifled by not adjusting it’s infrastructure to improve the amount of job opportunities. Bolivia has not made many attempts to modernize much of the nation, allowing unemployment to persist. Many observers argue Bolivia modernizing its economic approach is the only “necessary condition to reduce poverty and inequality” in the nation, and supporting new economic policies will help “improve labor productivity” and help curb unemployment.

Joseph Abay

Sources: BBC, UNICEF, World Bank, BBC , World Bank
Photo: The Guardian