Mud and Rain was a Small Sacrifice to Pay

In Santa Cruz, Bolivia, the torrential rain that fell these last few days and the severe flooding it caused, was not an obstacle for parents to line up outside of the schools to enroll their children. Many got up real early, while others slept outside the schools to make sure their children could be enrolled for the new school year (February through November). Most of these parents were unable to retain a spot for their children the past school year, due to lack of space, infrastructure and subsidies. Spending the night in the rain was a small sacrifice to pay to ensure a spot for the education of their children.  In Bolivia there is a massive amount of partially or unschooled children due to saturation. There are no open spots in schools and registration is first come, first served. Students from former years are automatically registered and do not need to worry. Registration for new students is only open January 15, 16 and 17 and once the classes are full access is denied.

To give more children an opportunity for education, most school buildings in Bolivia host one school in the morning, another school in the afternoon and a third school in the evening. This way the same classrooms are used twice or even three times a day for four hours each section. The children that do get to attend school, in most cases receive a very poor education in a crammed class with limited school supplies.

Despite all the problems, there has been some progress in education. The country’s literacy rate over the past 15 years and over the different age groups has reached a 95%, and the gender gap has significantly narrowed. Primary school net enrollment was equal for boys and girls at 82% and the gender gap in primary completion rate narrowed and shifted from a difference in favor of boys at 9.7 percentage points in 1992 to 1.2 percentage points in favor of girls in 2011.

Overall, the completion rate for primary education reached 90% in 2011, but secondary education only scores 56%. Marked disparities also persist in education. For example, an indigenous girl in the rural Amazon base has a schooling of an average of only two years, compared to 14.4 years of education to a boy living in the wealthy urban areas.

Other factors have their influence on the lack of education of children. Data on child labor suggest that 11% of children between the ages of 5 and 13 are involved in some form of labor, robbing them of time from school. There is also a poor birth registration, only 87% of children under five are registered. Domestic violence is widespread; 48% of female adolescents who are either married or living together report that they were victims of some form of violence or abuse by their partner. Approximately 80% of children were victims of violent discipline in households and there are multiple cases of neglect and abandonment. According to a survey carried out in 2013, 1,188 children and adolescents, live on the streets of the country’s main cities. Trafficking is also a concern. According to a UNDP 2009 report on public safety, Bolivia’s trafficking rate of 4.4 per 100,000 in 2012 is the highest in the region.


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