girls’ education in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a country known for its dedication to its diverse environment. But less known is its dedication to educating its youth, predominantly girls. The range of resources offered throughout the country, whether institutional or grassroots oriented, are just as diverse as its environment. The following are ten facts that help illuminate the successes and improvements of girls’ education in Costa Rica.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Costa Rica

  1. As of 2018, four percent of the country’s total GNP, one-fourth of the national government budget, was given to education. More money is spent on education in Costa Rica than any other Latin American country.
  2. In 1869, the country made education free and compulsory for all citizens. After this mandate, the number of schools in the educational system have risen to more than 4,000. The World Bank reports as of 2016 that girls’ educational participation at the primary school level is 96.6 percent, with secondary school enrollment at 84.5 percent.
  3. Girls’ enrollment at the tertiary level of education in Costa Rica is 60.9 percent, which is much higher than the male enrollment at the same level who have a participation of 46.6 percent. This participation in higher education is substantial. The world’s average percentage of girls enrolled at the tertiary level of education is only 38.9 percent.
  4. UNICEF reports as of 2012 that girls ages 15 to 24 years old have a literacy rate of 98.7 percent in Costa Rica. This rate exceeds the literacy rate for males, which is 97.9 percent.
  5. There are several programs for girls’ education in Costa Rica that include sustainable development. Sulá Batsú is a local organization that targets young women, specifically in low-income communities, and provides education on technology. By integrating the arts and cultural practices into the process, girls learn more than just technical skills. They also learn how to incorporate their unique identities into the work they produce. The organization has seen the success of 250 students in their technology camps in 2018 alone.
  6. February 15, 2017, marked the inaugural event of the first International Day of Women and Girls in Science in the country. Along with the U.N., this celebration aimed to encourage girls’ education in Costa Rica in science-related fields. Positions in these fields have been traditionally held by men; only 28 percent of researchers are women. Science is viewed not only as the main component of creating a sustainable society aimed at protecting the planet but is also seen as a path to eradicating poverty.
  7. Young girls engaged in STEM are reaching unprecedented rates in Costa Rica. In 2014, at the Twenty-sixth Math Olympiad, 66 medals were given to 132 high school students who had achieved success in the final events of the academic competition. Of these 132 students, a high number of finalists were girl students. This trend was also seen at the Fifth Robotics Olympiad in Costa Rica, where many of the teams had girl participants and some groups being formed solely of females.
  8. The World Bank estimates that of the 4.85 million people living in the country, 1.1 million live in poverty. The Women’s Empowerment Coalition in the country is aimed at helping impoverished girls and women to ensure that they reach a higher standard of living through education. The Coalition works by educating socially vulnerable girls, ensuring they achieve a high school education and job placement assistance. The organization’s model is “collaborative, reciprocal and relational.” The classes are self-paced and mentoring, educational materials and resources are provided to students to assist them in achieving U.S. high school diploma equivalencies. The Coalition has reached over 4,000 women and girls thus far.
  9. Mujeres en Tecnología en Acción (Women in Technology in Action) was launched in January of 2015 and is an organization aimed at promoting the participation of girls in science and technology-related fields in Costa Rica. The group identifies girls aged 15 to 19 living in communities at social risk and invites them to take part in the program. Participating girls learn skills that will better serve them in technology-based careers, such as leadership, entrepreneurship and female empowerment.
  10. UNESCO has worked with the government to identify a list of goals to be reached by 2030. Several of the goals center on educational standards, which will be implemented throughout the country. UNESCO identifies girls as being vulnerable to poverty if not properly educated at an early age. As of 2016, less than 6,000 girls had dropped out of school, a significant decrease from the 2011 record of 10,000. This progress illustrates the dedication to girls’ education in Costa Rica as a means of eradicating poverty country-wide.

Costa Rica has taken strides to ensure that its population consists of well-educated, globally-minded citizens. These 10 facts about girls’ education in Costa Rica exemplify how an already progressive state will continue to work hard to maintain this standard well into the future.

 – Taylor Jennings
Photo: Flickr

Registration Drive in Costa Rica Opens New Opportunities
Migrating to Costa Rica from Panama for economic opportunities, many indigenous people are experiencing the consequences of lacking a state ID, specifically the Ngäbe-Buglé people of remote Costa Rica. Originally from Panama, many Ngäbe-Buglé have moved to Costa Rica in search of work, often as coffee farmers. The farmers and their families are deprived of any national healthcare as well as the opportunity to seek a secondary education without a valid ID.

For many, the lack of healthcare leads to preventable deaths. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an expectant mother, 23-year-old Teresa, suffered from leukemia that went undiagnosed because she lacked access to a medical center. Teresa soon found it difficult to walk and experienced frequent fainting.

However, thanks to the registration drive in Costa Rica by the Costa Rican and Panamanian Civil Registry Office, supported by the UNHCR, Teresa and the Ngäbe-Buglé people are receiving assistance with state registration, giving them access to hospitals and much-needed treatment.

For Teresa, this project saved her life as well as her baby’s. “I was fainting and I couldn’t even walk … They came to the house and helped me with the paperwork,” Teresa said, according to UNHCR. After becoming a citizen and being admitted to a hospital, Teresa received a bone marrow transplant as well as chemotherapy.

The outreach program, the Chiriticos Project, travels door-to-door, primarily targeting the Ngäbe-Buglé people during the harvesting season. The reason many Ngäbe-Buglé adults fail to obtain an ID is because they are unaware of the required steps and paperwork.

Often traveling by motorcycle or even on foot, the outreach workers aim to bridge the gap by guiding them through the process. According to UNHCR, about 15,000 Ngäbe-Buglé travel from Panama to Costa Rica without an ID. However, more than 3,600 people have received assistance with registering for an ID since 2014 thanks to the Chiriticos Project.

Chiriticos experience immense deprivation of opportunity in life. Parents often fail to register their child’s birth, making obtaining a birth certificate an overwhelming and nearly impossible feat later in life. Without a birth certificate, children are denied access to secondary schools and forced to return to farming, trapping them in an inescapable circle.

Another way that the UNHCR supports the registration drive is through its campaign #IBelong, which aims to eliminate statelessness by 2024. The campaign is supported by local authorities and assists indigenous people with obtaining an ID and providing legal aid.

One person who reaped the benefits of the registration drive in Costa Rica is 18-year-old mother Elida Andrade. According to The Costa Rica Star, Andrade’s parents, who moved to Costa Rica from Panama for work, never registered Elida’s birth. The effect of their decision was made clear when Andrade tried to enroll in a secondary school. Without a state ID, the state denied Elida access to grants, pushing the possibility of an advanced education out of reach.

The outreach project restored Andrade’s hope by helping her register for a birth certificate and opening the door to her potential education. “That day was one of the happiest days of my life. I now feel like a real Costa Rican,” Andrade said. She quickly registered her one-year-old son Pablo’s birth to prevent him from facing the same problem later in life.

Andrade, who plans on studying in the medical field, expressed her enthusiasm and appreciation for the registration drive in Costa Rica. “I will be the pride of my parents and my community. In the meantime, I will promote birth registration so that all my people can assert their rights. The future is ours,” Andrade said, according to The Costa Rica Star.

The registration drive in Costa Rica has unveiled a whole new realm of possibilities for some Ngäbe-Buglé people living in remote, poor areas. While providing a pathway to education for some, and opening access to medical care to others, the registration drive is essential for the wellbeing of the Ngäbe-Buglé.

However, according to UNHCR, more than 10 million people worldwide suffer from statelessness. Gaining citizenship is just another step to improve a nation’s most remote and poor areas.

– Austin Stoltzfus

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Costa Rica

Poverty in Costa Rica remains an issue facing many people. The Republic of Costa Rica is a small country located between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The country is greatly known for its tropical climate, which attracts millions of tourists every year. The sun, the sea and the nation’s wide variety of mountains and volcanoes have made the economy of Costa Rica mostly based on tourism.

Poverty in Costa Rica is not something that tourists often think about. Surrounded by the nation’s bountiful beauty, it is hard for many to believe that extreme poverty exists within what seems like paradise.

The unfortunate truth is that 1.1 million people currently live in poverty in Costa Rica. Most of the poor population in the country is situated within rural areas. The farther one goes from the metropolitan areas, the more poverty increases. Along with it, there is a lack of resources, fewer job opportunities and more.

The problem of poverty in such country does not end with the fact that over a million people suffer from it every day. The bigger concern is that such poverty has not been reduced for the past two decades.

In spite of this being the case, Costa Rica has the lowest poverty rate in Central America. Around 20 percent of the population live below the national poverty line of earning less than $155 per month. But, only two percent of the citizens in Costa Rica live below what is considered to be the international poverty line, living on less than one dollar per day.

Fortunately, initiatives have been taken in order to reduce poverty in Costa Rica. “Puente del Desarrollo,” or “Bridge of Development,” is a plan that took action throughout the years of 2015 and 2016, aiming to combine social programs into one bigger program. The program is still in action, and its goal is to help up to 54,600 families living below the Costa Rican poverty line by 2018.

– Paula Gibson

Photo: Flickr

poverty in costa rica
The poverty in Costa Rica surprises many tourist. In the United States, an image of tropical Costa Rica permeates travel websites. Beautiful sandy beaches, tropical getaways. A common suggested destination is the Province of Guanacaste. If someone searched Guanacaste during this week, it is unlikely they made it past the first half of the page without finding the link they needed. The last thing they are likely to find or look for in Guanacaste is social and economic unrest.

For the people of Guanacaste, sandy beaches and tropical getaways merely form the backdrop of their struggles. Costa Rica is no stranger to extreme poverty. In 1982, poverty marred the doorways of 48 percent of households in the country. Activists and policy changes cut away at that statistic and by 1994, less than 16 percent of households were affected. But where does that leave Costa Rica in recent years? In 2011, 15 percent of Costa Ricans were living in extreme poverty. One of every five employees receive all legal compensation, such as paid overtime. Income has decreased by seven percent. Figures from this year show a single percent decrease in national poverty. In Guanacaste, however, almost 22 percent of the regions residents live in extreme poverty.

The Annexation of Guanacaste Festival celebrates the province’s choice to become a part of Costa Rica instead of Nicaragua on July 15, 1824. So why is this normally joyous occasion gaining conflicted attention this year? Over 2000 protestors chose the holiday to air grievances in Nicoya’s central park, a site usually full of celebration. Specific messages were diverse, but the general message to their government was the same: We deserve better.

A prevalent issue among protestors was the lack of response by the Costa Rican government to cure and inform on the high arsenic levels in the water in the Guanacaste region. For three years, citizens have been looking for answers, but their cries have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court issued a Writ of Amparo, or a way to protect constitutional rights, against President Laura Chinchilla and various government agencies due to their lack of action. Roy Wong with the Costa Rican Social Security System, the country’s public health administration, found that the rate for chronic kidney failure is almost 20 percent higher in Guanacaste than that national average. Though no official connection has been made, the high rate of kidney failure and high levels of arsenic coming from the taps of people’s homes could be connected.

Despite signing an emergency decree in March 2012, President Chinchilla and the Ministry of Health have made no apparent progress in finding a cause or solution for the arsenic. In the Writ of Amparo, citizens noted that the government recently issued a similar [emergency decree] due to coffee rust. The health of a bush gets more attention and more budget than the health of the citizens of the Republic. This infuriates us and we cannot let it continue. As it should.

Many onlookers of the protest in Nicoya sympathized with protesters. Hannia Carrillo grew up in Sámara, Guanacaste. While watching both the festivities and protests with her mother, Carrillo told the Tici Times that she agreed with the march. The president’s focus on tourism has left the rest of the province behind, she said.

Many residents felt that focus on tourism lead the Costa Rican government to leniency when dealing with big hotels and landowners. This, some believe, is exhibited best in the poverty prevalent throughout the country. Despite a report by earlier this month of a growing middle class, the protestors shout something that many in the Costa Rican government might wish to ignore, that they are not treated equally. What do they ask in return? Accountability and transparency.

– Jordan Bradley
Sources: PR Web, YouTube, Tico Times, Inside Costa Rica, Costa Roca Law, World Bank
Photo: Inside Costa Rica