Pants on Fire Chronicles (Updated)

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Chávez’s latest issue ad looks like it’s trying to sell you shoes or sportwear more than like an election spot, so its obviously targeted at the young crowd. It has great production values and a good concept behind it, even if feels a little bit underdeveloped. The pitch is “Chavez ended illiteracy, made it possible for everybody to go to college and our education system will reach all Venezuelan children soon”.

Those are bold statements. Alas, they don’t hold up to a serious fact-check.

First: The Chavernment insists that illiteracy has been completely erradicated since 2005, with the confirmation of UNESCO. Specialized NGO Education Assembly doubts about the reliability of that declaration, given that more recent official reports pointed that there’s still illiteracy in our schools. Another UN entity, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) indicated in its 2011 index that illiteracy in Venezuela is still present in almost 5% of our overall population over 15 years old.

Mision Robinson, the first of the social programs known as Misiones, has been questioned for being very expensive and inefficient to actually achieve its goals. For the record, UNESCO has not made any written statement or report on the issue or done a visit in situ to follow up its original announcement of more than six years ago.

Second: Chavismo has said over and over that access to higher education has increased three times since they’re in charge. This is somewhat accurate, but the means used to do so could be considered questionable.

The Chavernment has created new universities (like the Bolivarian University of Venezuela) and expanded others (like opening the military-oriented UNEFA to civilians), widening the college offer spectrum. But those universities are becoming centers of ideological education and students are feeling the pressure to involve in political activities.

They have attempted to change the entire admission process, like proposing the elimination of all internal tests. Meanwhile, autonomus universities like the Central University of Venezuela have witnessed a progressive deterioration of their finances in recent years. Even their constitutionally-protected autonomy has been continuously violated either by TSJ decisions or violent actions of small groups.

But all those actions have not increased the number of Venezuelans who go to college. As I wrote in an earlier post, the number of students entering higher education is decreasing and available posts in some careers are ending up empty.

If the first two statements are what Chavez promotes as suceesses of his rule, the last one is a pledge for the future: Giving quality education to all kids across the land. Sadly for him, looks like he will have a lot of work because of his own governing mistakes.

The Arturo Uslar Pietri Foundation presented its annual report on education and its findings are revealing: Almost 4 million kids were left out of the Venezuelan school system during the 2011-12 period. There’s more. The number of children outside the school system hasn’t changed much since the 2007-08 period. The average is 3.9 million for the last four school years in a row. A bleak picture that light painting can’t hide.

UPDATE: As reader Juan indicated, a UNESCO official sent a response to Alek Boyd in 2006 denying that Venezuela was declared free of illiteracy. Yet, the Chavernment’s Education Minister insisted on the claim earlier this month. Pants on fire indeed.

1 COMMENT

  1. The slogan “Chavez es Educacion” somehow seems like a slogan from “1984”:

    “WAR IS PEACE”
    “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY”
    “IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”
    “CHAVEZ IS EDUCATION”

    This whole distopic epic in Venezuelan history is just so… Orwellian.

  2. Gustavo, tienes una version en español? Every Venezuelan should read your list of facts…you just said “loud and clear”…gracias

  3. I have to add that A GREAT NUMBER of schools have been invaded by “refugiados de las lluvias” especially in poor areas of Caracas (where they are needed the most). Breaking the learning process and leaving lots of kids schoolless. My family and I for over a year have been helping a 11 years old kid from such school, judging by his state, public education frightens me. Now he has learn to read and write, I worry if too far behind to ever to “dar la talla” in any college/university later on. I wouldn’t even be sure he will finish to his bachelor degree (5to año)
    It doesn’t look good

    • They are revolutionizing the education system, as the red guards did in China. The old capitalist class and educated elite need to be liquidated to allow the country to move forward. This is what Mao did and what made China the great country it is today. As long as wreckers and traitors remain in the education system there will be no progress for the country as a whole.

      • I/m sorry, Blog, but I can’t resist this morphing Troll. The Venezuelan “Refugiados Red Guards” will soon liquidate the Bolibourgeosie Capitalist Class–Good news for all!! No need to worry about the “educated elite” among them–there are none! As for China The Great, once the probable/eventual Great Depression completes rolling out, and Wal Mart eliminates at least 50% of its (mostly Chinese do-hickeys) inventory that isn’t selling and shouldn’t have been stocked in the first place, The Great China will go back to one bowl of rice a day (and, post-Chavez- wrecked Venezuela may have trouble even doing that)…

      • Fenqing1979 says:
        old capitalist class and educated elite need to be LIQUIDATED to allow the country to move forward.
        How many have you, Fenqing1979, liquidated?
        Shot and killed?
        Were those your parents driving the red marias in 1949,
        past Ferguson Lu, across the railroad to the cemetery
        in shanghai, doing their righteous executions?
        The killings were done in the wee hours of the morning,
        But the shots were clearly heard by the nearby dwellers.
        cheers,
        a survivor

      • “Non pascere troglodytam” Don’t feed the troll. This person is here only to throw these pearls of wisdom at us on the blessings of life under Communist Revolution in the Popular Republic of China, the most genocidal system in all History, in times of “peace”.

        If he/she believes what they are saying. Do you think there’s anything to be gained in discussion with him/her? It’d be less frustrating to argue with a supporter of Absolute Monarchy and Divine Right of Kings.

        Or there’s a very good attempt at ironic humor at the expense of the Chinese system of government, which should only be appreciated with laughter.

          • Doris.

            Not feeding the trolls is very much an internet ” rule”…and has been suggested by the blog owners many times.

            My impression of the trolls on these blogs is that they purposely lie in order to get a rise out of people and that they will keep on, endlessly, if we feed them.

            I agree with Loroferoz that it is better not to feed them.

            Often the difference between expressing an opinion and pontificating is in the eyes of the beholder who disagrees with the opinion expressed.

          • Trying to set the rules again, FP? Write your own damned blog to alleviate your oft-disclosed bo-o-oredom. Or go lecture your grandchildren. But leave Quico, Juan, GEHA and the rest of us out of your finger-wagging. We are adults and can decide for ourselves whether we want to engage in exchanges with trolls, or not. End of discussion.

          • I don’t think our friend Fenqing cares anything about the people murdered by Mao and Maoism. I don’t think for that matter that he/she cares about Mao either. I think this person is out to irritate, he/she would make a favorable comment on Chinese rule and on how it’s not at all genocidal, on a forum about Tibetan culture and independence.

        • Love the latin phrase, will shamelessly steal it from you, my dear Angry Parrot… I am closer to believe “Fenqing1979” is just being too much of a hipster with his comments… I mean, talking about Chairman Mao and his policies when China is now the second largest Ferrari market in the world after the Capitalists Pigs of the U.S. of A. is just a despropósito… Disregard at will.

  4. One thing I learned when I first arrived in Venezuela was that much of the education problem was one of nutrition.

    If there is a doctor here maybe he can confirm if this information is correct but I was told that the most important period of mental development for a child is the last 3 months of gestation & the first year of life.

    Here in Margarita back when I first arrived I was involved with the birth of a child by one of our employees, a young woman from a small pueblo. The first thing we noticed was that nutrition was terrible so we attempted to change that. We heard stories that children were being fed whole milk with rice powder added. This created the fat stomach babies that you see.

    Unfortunately this doesn’t give any nutrition just fat. For this reason children’s minds do not develop & learning becomes a real problem. So all the Mission Robinson efforts to teach these adults are non productive due to problems that resulted 30 years ago.

    Today with all the shortages of milk powder & the cost of baby formula I would assume the cycle is being repeated.

    As a side note the baby who we helped is now a student in university.

  5. I am reminded of some recent posts regarding solutions for reducing crime. My comments to some of the individual initiatives suggested was to note that their are no quick fixes and that it can only be done through reforming the basic systems and then years of hard work after that.

    Improving education is another example of a problem that has no simple or easy solutions. In order to do this a society must:

    – Commit to a long-term and continuing investment.
    – Improve prenatal health-care, and early childhood nutrition (as noted by Island Canuck) so children arrive to school with the tools needed to succeed.
    – Promote the value of education as a society and educate adults to “expect” their children to become better educated than they were.
    – Reform the school systems to reward real success in teaching and weed out unproductive educators.
    – Pay educators enough to attract quality minds into the field and demand high professional standards.
    – Be prepared to wait an entire generation before seeing real and irreversible results.

    “Education” as a campaign slogan is nothing but an empty promise. This is something that has to be rooted into the psyche of the society so deeply that it transcends politics.

    • I like it.
      Re: Roy’s – Commit to a long-term and continuing investment.
      – Improve prenatal health-care, and early childhood nutrition (as noted by Island Canuck) so children arrive to school with the tools needed to succeed.
      – Promote the value of education as a society and educate adults to “expect” their children to become better educated than they were.
      – Reform the school systems to reward real success in teaching and weed out unproductive educators.

  6. I always bring this point. My dearest grandma, 67, is still illiterate. She never had the chance to go to school. After ACUDE and after Misión Robinson, she still cannot read and write.

    I have said this many times in the past, but it really pisses me off that they are using people like her and lying so blatantly about this.

  7. So Chávez is education? Kind of ironic, given that he actually REDUCED the amount of money given to, lets say, public universities in 2012 compared with 2011. Last year we invested BsF 23.536.247.000 on higher education, while this year we’re only investing BsF 15.729.462.495. By comparison, the defense spending grew from BsF 10.349.878.000 to BsF 17.106.367.890. I guess it’s understandable, we’re not going to fight the gringos with books, right?

    • Or technology, or science, or any strategy. Guess we Venezuelans will do as some arms trafficker quipped in a movie I forgot about combat planes he sold some guerrilla group or government in Africa: They would load them with bombs and roll them down a sufficiently steep slope at their enemies.

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