infrastructure in BoliviaBolivia is a is one of the most isolated countries in South America and is landlocked, bordering Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru. Infrastructure in Bolivia has changed rapidly in recent years as communication has adapted to new technology. This is exemplified by the continued rapid growth of cellular phone use in the country.

Although it is often taken for granted, solid infrastructure makes a large difference, particularly for education. When the needs of the students are met, it can make a world of difference in terms of the quality of education.

Miriam Chipana, a student at Jaime Escalante School located in La Paz, was quoted as saying “it is the best school in the area since we have our own field, a computer room, better bathrooms; everything is bigger and with more light.” Another citizen, Odón Willy Barriento, a father and former student of the Luis Espinal School, agreed with this sentiment, saying “It is a momentous change; 30 years ago, we sat in abode chairs and brought wooden planks to use as writing desks. The new infrastructure encourages students to move forward.”

The improvements to infrastructure in Bolivia have come a long way in improving the quality of education in the country. There have been seven schools with more than 6,000 students in urban areas of La Paz benefiting from infrastructural improvements. Freddy Mamani, the principal at Luis Espinal School, reaffirmed this by saying “enrollment has risen, as has attendance in each class, so we are operating at full capacity.”

Despite the positive outlook for education, infrastructure in Bolivia can still be improved. There have been several steps taken to further improve infrastructure, such as the investment of $3.5 billion in infrastructure in Santa Cruz, Bolivia in 2016. This move was part of President Evo Morales’ drive to make the country’s exports more competitive. With this investment, improvements are planned for highways, airports, railways, housing and telecommunications.

Then there is the Bolivia Urban Infrastructure Project, whose development objective is to improve access to basic services to the urban poor in Bolivia. The project aims to do this through targeted infrastructure investments and the provision of technical assistance to municipalities in the planning, expansion and sustainability of urban service delivery. With these improvements planned for infrastructure in Bolivia, the future is brighter than ever.

– Drew Fox

Photo: Flickr

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