School’s out. Where are we going to eat?

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Children in Miranda state don’t have access to milk or meat at school; some get to eat three times a day but in smaller portions; others say they eat just rice. Some kids said that their dinner was pasta that their moms blended together with cinnamon; others got grilled eggplant for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Those are some of the results of the poll carried out by the Education Division of the Miranda State Government on 2581 6th-grade students from 173 schools of the region. The poll, taken between June 13th and 15th, 2016, looked to assess their current conditions concerning food and nutrition.

But the alarming figures don’t end there. According to Miranda’s Education Secretariat, 30% of students skip school because there’s no food in their homes.

Juan Maragall, secretary for Education, said that this percentage represents 12,300 children in schools affiliated to the Governor’s Office. But if we look at the national scale, there’s more than 230,000 children skipping school for the same reasons.

In view of this, Maragall said that the Education Secretariat proposed a plan to open schools during holidays to guarantee at least one meal a day for the children.

With school activities set to end in a few weeks, he said that these figures have been presented to Vice-President Aristóbulo Istúriz five times. To date, there has been no response.

A solution vs. the budget

In Miranda, the idea is to keep 400 out of the total 700 schools affiliated to the Governor’s Office open between July and September.

This doesn’t mean that schools are going to open in their conventional schedule. The idea is for them to work about three hours a day.

In addition to receiving their meal, during this period, students would benefit from an academic program to reinforce subjects such as Language and Mathematics.

For this to happen, the Governor’s Office would need to have an additional budget close to Bs. 400 million. This is not easy in times of crisis, and even less when the Miranda Governor’s Office doesn’t have special reserves or additional credits from the Executive Branch.

Therefore, Maragall said they launched an awareness campaign for private companies and the general public. If they make donations, the load would be lighter and 102,000 elementary school students would benefit.

The plan also requires the support of mothers and teachers.

“To open the schools we need that personnel, and also offer them an economic incentive. It’s not easy for teachers, of course, specially with inflation rates diminishing their income. That’s why we must carefully study how they’re going to get paid. We don’t deny that we’re going to need a big volunteer effort. Our goal is to lend a hand to these kids who’re going to school with an empty stomach.”

According to Maragall, the plan to open schools during holidays isn’t a solution, but at least it’s a form of support, because they know sometimes the merienda children get in school ends up being the only meal they eat during the day and, although it’s just a merienda, he says it has all the necessary nutrients and basic proteins to start the day.

He explained that, in the reports he gets daily, students often feel sick, grow pale and faint.

“This isn’t about patching up the government’s failures, nor seeking political gain from the crisis, but we can’t turn our backs on the people, we must support them however we can, mainly because it’s children’s health that’s at stake.”

That’s the importance in Professor Maragall’s project, which hasn’t had any response from the national government.

National plan

Ángel Cacique, community leader for the civil organization Alianza del Lápiz, a program that seeks to decrease violence in slums, supported Maragall’s idea and said it should be applied nationwide.

“We think this isn’t an easy task, because issues in the School Feeding System have been frequently reported all year long.”

People complain that schools have to serve arepas filled only with butter and they no longer provide the glass of milk. Aside from this, State bolivarian schools rarely offer lunch, and when that happens, mothers don’t send their children to school.

Cacique believes this extra time in school should be used to reinforce studies, specially because kids have lost close to 15 school days because of the suspensions decreed by the Executive.

However, he said that the intense shortage of food affects children the most.

He assured that the matter’s already being discussed with NGO Cáritas, with representatives of Fé y Alegría, with the Venezuelan Association of Catholic Schools (AVEC) and with the Teacher’s Federation. “Projects with these attributes are being evaluated,” he said.

Cacique, who’s also a teacher, is aware that the government is responsible for this, “But we can’t leave the people alone with this drama anyway. We know one meal a day won’t solve the enormous problems.”

Professor Luisa Pernalette, Fé y Alegría’s regional director, thinks it’s necessary to create a plan to help children as well, but she also spoke about helping teachers who don’t have the economic resources or food at home.

“We also have to take into account if mothers are willing to cooperate during those days, if teachers are available (because they’ve also been hit by the crisis) and confirm that the School Feeding System will provide the necessary food supplies. The latter is relevant in case the initiative is reproduced by other institutions,” the professor said.

The great problem in the end, will be to find financing and a committed group of volunteers, since there are many teachers whose wages and cestatickets haven’t been adjusted yet.

It’ll be difficult to convince them to work in the plan. Many will be concerned with how to stretch their own budgets and guarantee food for their own homes. But Maragall’s plan includes providing food to teachers who work in the project and mothers in charge of preparing the food, during the period of time the schools will be open.

16 COMMENTS

  1. “People complain that schools have to serve arepas filled only with butter and they no longer provide the glass of milk. Aside from this, State bolivarian schools rarely offer lunch, and when that happens, mothers don’t send their children to school.”

    When you add malnutrition to poor education, you have a recipe for disaster. The entire next generation is bound to be dumb, and ill-prepared for business. And probably corrupt too, enchufados somewhere.

    Without education and a healthy brain, you cannot build an honest business or compete internationally with anyone. Thus, you either become a bachaquero, a corrupt enchufado, or a poor bus driver living in a rancho. Much like the “president” a highschool dropout who also probably ate lots of arepas with butter.

    On top of that inevtable ineptitude and/or corruption and poverty coming for the next generation, many will also be obese, fat, and with poor health. If all you eat is white bread with “diablitos” or butter, you will soon get fat. This young generation doesn’t exercise either, they have to work, bachaqueando, or selling perros calientes, or selling drugs, or joining gangs. So expect another generation of dumb, fat, uncompetitive people. If they are not corrupt enchufados and criminals. Not all, but many.

  2. Everything occurring in Venezuela, and that which will continue to occur, portends a grim future indeed. Even with immediate removal of the current regime it will take years to rebuild. Not to mention potential future oil revenue mortgaged to the Chinese. A criminal failed State thanks to Chavez, et al..

  3. It sounds like a smart, workable plan that would help address the tragic cost this economic crisis is inflicting on innocent people (kids). That is to say, a plan the regime would dismiss out of a failure to acknowledge reality, and sheer spite.

  4. Despite being the Miranda State, not a single time was Capriles named. The fact that education is a priority for Capriles does say something about him. Otherwise a flawless article!

  5. Mabel, this article, and the one by Charlie Barrera on food deficiency in Venezuela’s hospitals, drives home more than all other comparisons the terrible failure in terms of human suffering of Bolivarian Socialism as an ideology/political system/ideal.

  6. Someone should introduce the American sweet potato to Venezuelan schools. It is high calorie, nutrient rich, easy to grow, they can be stored anywhere and kids like them. I like arepas but an arepa is basically the nutritional equivalent of eating a large bag of potato chips.

  7. In Maryland nutrition is considered essential to learning. Low income students acrosss the state receive a free breakfast and a free lunch every day in the school. It makes a difference. Hunger stops learning completely.

    On the other Maduro’s malnourishment had little to do with his learning problems.

  8. brains of humans consume a big disproportionate percentage of the total energy the body uses , in terms of weight the brain uses proportionately much more energy than the rest of the body, in children which brain is still developing the energy intake can be as high as 40% plus , surfeit of nutrition causes a more limited brain development , a world wide study was made which linked average IQ with levels of malnutrition , Venezuela comes out as having an average IQ of 84 (normal IQ is about 100) , Cubans despite presumably having much more education imparted on them have an average IQ same as Venezuela , likely the result of the malnutrition which cubans have been suffering for decades , specially during the ‘special’ period. There were similar studies made of dutch and finlandese children born during a period of induced starvation during WWII, malnutrition affected children born during this time , including their overall health….!!

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