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Venezuela's Education System
A number of factors are greatly affecting Venezuela’s education system. The Venezuelan government has always believed that every citizen has the right to free education. When oil prices drove Venezuela’s economy, so too was its educational system. Venezuela used to rank as one of the highest in education in Latin America until 2010 when it became number six in the region. Now the country is undergoing one of the worst humanitarian crises and it is affecting Venezuela’s education system.

Economic and Political Collapse

In the 20th century, modernization and urbanization in Venezuela brought many improvements to its educational system. Former President Hugo Chavez used the rise in oil prices to fund the education system, train teachers and fund laptop computers. Now that the gas prices have dramatically fallen, not only has the economy gone down with it, the corruption and mismanagement of the government have also affected the quality of Venezuela’s education system.

High Dropout Rates and Limited Faculty Members

Several students living in Venezuela have missed more than 40 percent of class due to school cancellations, strikes, protests or vacation days. That is equal to missing more than half of their mandatory instruction school days. There has been a “massive desertion of students” in every level of education. Yearly dropout rates have doubled since 2011 and in 2017 about 50 percent of students in three public universities located in Táchira dropped out. About one-fourth of the students do not attend school at all.

Massive numbers of teachers have left their jobs because of their low-wage salary of $6-$30 a month. About 400 employees have quit one of Venezuela’s top science universities, Simon Bolivar University, in the past 2 years. Some teachers dedicate their time to attending strikes and protests in the hopes of changing the education system, which results in them only working 10 days out of the month. Teachers also miss school when they encounter long food lines to feed their families, and some fear that someone will shoot, murder or rob them on campus when they go to work. Robberies in universities have increased by 50 percent in the last three years.

Lack of Food, Water, Electricity and Supplies

“There is only one bathroom for 1,700 children, the lights are broken, there is no water and the school meals are no longer being served,” said a teacher working in one of Venezuela’s middle-class public schools. The scarcity of water, food in cafeterias and electricity has caused schools like Caracas Public High School to close down for weeks at a time. Teachers are even trading passing grades for milk and flour because of the scarcity of food. Students are passing out every day at physical education classes due to their empty stomachs and broken school kitchens.

Budget cuts on school funding are the major reason why schools lack the supplies they need. In 2019, the University of Central Venezuela received only 28 percent of its “requested annual funding.” This is less than the 40 percent it received in 2014 and estimates determine that it will decline to 18 percent next year. These budget cuts result in “broken toilets, leaking ceilings, unlit classrooms and cracked” classroom floors. The education budget now prioritizes Bolivarian Universities due to the fact that they teach 21st-century socialism.

Lack of Intellectual Freedom

About 15 years ago, during former President Hugo Chavez’s presidency, the Bolivarian University of Venezuela opened. This is a higher education institution for underprivileged and poor civilians that are suffering due to Venezuela’s situation. This developed into a new education system the government created that stands by “the ideology of its socialist revolution.” Since the government has taken control over the university’s autonomy, lack of academic thought and intellectual freedom is prevalent. Since private companies now cannot fund universities as of 2010, there have been no new majors approved.

Solutions

Caritas is a nonprofit organization inspired by the Catholic faith and established in 1997. It has a history of listening to the poor talk about what they need and giving them what is necessary to improve their lives. It has seen over 18,890 children and provided 12,000 of them with nutritional care. About 54 percent of those children have recovered from malnutrition and other medical emergencies.

Global Giving is another NGO that has started a foundation called the I Love Venezuela Foundation. This Foundation focuses on creating and channeling resources to NGOs that focus on the “wellbeing, human development, and social transformation” in Venezuela. It also works on raising money in order to buy shoes for low-income families in Venezuela so that they can safely walk to school, play with their friends and be children. Its goal is to reach $10,000 and it has raised about $630 so far.

While Venezuela’s education system has had challenges in recent years, organizations like Caritas and Global Giving should help alleviate some of the burdens that prevent children from attending school. With continued support, Venezuela’s school system should one day reach its height again.

Isabella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr


There are no concrete numbers or official statistics that show how many people are homeless and what is the real situation with homelessness in Bulgaria. However, there is a trend that can be observed – the numbers are increasing. As of 2013, as many as 1,370 people have been registered in temporary accommodation facilities. The real number is likely much higher since this only accounts for people with government-issued IDs who have signed up in those facilities.

Urban Nomads

There are many reasons and circumstances that lead to people losing their home. The most vulnerable groups of people that end up without shelter are refugees, the Roma minority, elderly people who have become a burden to their families or young adults who have previously been in foster home facilities.

Most of the participants of a survey that Urban Nomads, a project that is aiming at improving living conditions for the homeless in Bulgaria, conducted stated that what they really hope for is a job and a place to stay, contrary to stereotypes some still believe in. The organization believes in the value that homeless people can give to society and are dedicated to helping them by constructing tiny portable houses from recycled materials. People do not just choose to live on the streets and those who are in that situation have been through a lot to end up like that.

Government Addressing Homelessness in Bulgaria

Bulgaria is one of the poorest countries in the European Union. According to Eurostat statistics from 2015, 40 percent of the country’s citizens live at risk of poverty or social exclusion. In 2013, there were 13 centers for temporary accommodation in the country that served 442 people, as well as six shelters and 13 centers for homeless children.

The policies designed to tackle the problem operate mainly on the municipal level but there are problems that prevent their success. The major issue with the social services available is the lack of adequate funding and good financial management. To add to this, the coordination and project management also need improvement. As a result, the needs of people exceed what is provided by the country, affecting homelessness in Bulgaria.

Initiatives that Help Homeless People in Bulgaria

Winter, the most difficult time for people who live on the streets, is here,  and there are several initiatives that aim to alleviate homelessness in Bulgaria in these times. Caritas is a nonprofit organization that works with homeless people in Bulgaria. Their goal is to help those who are most vulnerable: refugees, migrants, the elderly and the homeless are helped to lead a fair and dignified life. Along with social centers in major cities they provide mobile services- domestic care for elderly and support for people on the streets. Caritas has helped over 4,000 people in Sofia and provides food, hygiene kits, medicine and assistance.

There are also other initiatives. In Sofia, a restaurant will donate food to those who are in need during the winter. Volunteers from the Bulgarian Red Cross opened a winter dining room in the town of Ruse. They expect to provide warm meals, a bath and clothes to around 40 people in need every day. In Pernik, two rooms from the hospital will be given to homeless people during the cold months, according to the mayor. Dobrich opened the doors to its house of temporary accommodation. The house for homeless people will be open 24 hours a day and has the capacity to house eight people.

These organizations and initiatives, along with government activities, help people who do not have access to the basics of living a dignified life and improve the situation of homelessness in Bulgaria. And truly, everything to make these people suffer less helps, but the issue of homelessness should be tackled on a more structural level by reintegrating these people into society and helping them find a sustainable way of providing for themselves.

– Aleksandra Sirakova
Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Peru
An imbalance of power between the government and its citizens continues to burden Peru. Corruption is rampant in the agricultural sector given that Peru’s plentiful natural resources keep its economy afloat, despite widening wage gaps. The country lives in the shadow of a civil war which cost the lives of nearly 70,000 people. Considering the various plights of the Peruvian people, from gender inequality to widespread poverty, it may initially seem difficult to procure a definitive strategy on how to help people in Peru. While modern day Peru faces an array of conflicts, there are many organizations which have formed in response to the various needs of the country.

With its history of autocratic governments, Peru is in desperate need of governmental assistance and foreign aid to protect the rights of its citizens from corruption in the government. One organization whose aim is to prevent further governmental strife is the Peru Support Group. This organization fights corruption through meticulous research of Peru’s current political and social climate and from there uses the information to improve policy as well as provide expedient news on how to help Peru. One can support the ongoing success of the Peru Support Group through donations as well as by familiarizing oneself with the data created by the organization to breed awareness for the conflicts Peru faces today.

Given that a cornerstone of Peruvian culture emphasizes the values of the family unit, this mindset has encouraged families to grow as well as to integrate extended family members into a single household. This results in many people sharing the same roof with very limited resources. In order to meet the needs of their families, Peruvian children often are forced to work on the streets vending an assortment of products from gum to souvenirs.

On a visit to Peru’s capital of Iquitos, Paul and Sandi Opp were deeply affected by how this epidemic of poverty was especially burdensome for children and relentlessly sought information on how to help people in Peru. The two formed the organization People of Peru Project, which has built a crisis center and an administrative dormitory to provide for the poor of Peru from childhood to adulthood. Over the years, the project has seen Peruvian inhabitants grow from poverty to successful careers in fields such as medicine, law and engineering. The organization makes it easy for others to contribute to the organization through means of volunteering and/or donations on their site.

The most recent conflicts which have wrought disaster on Peru are the recurring instances of mudslides that are happening across the country. The current death toll stands at 100 people and countless others are suffering from homelessness after the series of mudslides tore through more than 800 cities. While the Peruvian government has made great strides in doing all that it can to prevent further havoc, the media has not done its part in raising awareness for international funding to counter the incidents.

Fortunately, great mobilization is occurring through grassroots organizations in the United States, such as the Peruvian community living in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia to provide aid. Anyone can contribute to the cause of how to help people in Peru just through sharing articles on social media to gain attention from the media, but especially those living in the above-mentioned areas can donate to local Peruvian relief organizations.

Volunteering, raising awareness, and donating toward social, economic and political relief in Peru is not only an investment in the country itself but also in the future. The inequality, social discrimination, and government instability of Peru do not only affect it within its borders; if the natural resources of Peru are not protected and properly sourced then it jeopardizes the prosperity of several other South American countries. It is not merely a topic of concern in terms of altruism but of international practicality and pragmatism.

Kaitlin Hocker

Photo: Flickr