Original art by @modográfico

It’s 2:00 p.m. and I’m still sitting in my car, gathering the gumption to get out and take the long walk to the classroom alone. Why so scared?

There’s no one here. No security guards, and no more than two other cars.

I look around and I get the chills.

Back when I was a student, I would never have thought my department would turn into such a foreboding, lonely place. As far as I’m concerned, the craziest thing I’ve done as a professor is having to fight off the fear that a malandro could waltz into my classroom as I lecture.

Being a professor is a calling, but in Venezuela, we teach for the love of it. It’s a job that costs many professors their entire salary — and then some.

The few professors who haven’t thrown the towel are doing everything and anything to keep teaching the next generation of Venezuelan professionals. We started asking some of our colleagues about their experiences, and what came back was harrowing:

One professor who didn’t want to miss any more classes due to the 2017 protests started recording and sending out whole lessons via WhatsApp. Another, who had to leave the country, taught his students via Facebook Live.

Other stories are just silly. Our very own José Gonzáles Vargas once had to translate a film sotto voce for his Introduction to Film Studies, because the remote control of the DVD player had no batteries. Another colleague scanned a whole book with a cell phone camera to save on photocopies. It took hours and hours, on both the cell phone and computer, to save each page and organize the document.

But some professors have had to resort to even more extreme measures. Some teach through long blackouts. A few talked about having to teach math courses without chalk or a marker at hand.

Petty crime is also a major concern. One professor at the UCV established a password protocol to grant students access to the classroom. If someone walked outside, they had to remember the name of a political philosopher and a certain knock on the door to be allowed back in.

Not to mention, many professors give their lectures hungry or with hungry families at home.

But hardships are the mother of creativity: we heard of a class organizing a movie screening. Cost of the ticket? Four blank sheets of paper. This made the printing of the finals at the Faculty possible.

In another case, students and professors arranged several meters of extension cord to light up the labs at a Faculty of Medicine, because it kept losing power.

Teaching is a labor of love, and a source of pride, a way to support your family, grow professionally and personally and help others. But growth is impossible when you’re hungry, when you don’t have enough money to pay the bus fare and professors fight the odds to keep teaching, out of respect for the even crazier things students must do to reach the classrooms.  

Taking part in university life is an act of bravery. It takes rebels to look a crisis in the eye and refuse to blink. Neither students nor professors have given up on education as a tool for development.

It’s one reason to believe this isn’t over yet.

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50 COMMENTS

  1. Very moving testimony. It calls for open rebelion. Teaching under these conditions is admirable and heroic but ineffective.

  2. Venezuelas should have stopped their country to a grinding hold months ago if not years ago. But no, they keep doing whatever they do, day in day out. That’s why the dictator and his narco corrupt gang are still in place and will continue to be.
    Dios Santos y Maria when … when … when will Venezuelans stand up and stop this regime? Venezuelans have their priorities COMPLETELY wrong and they are doing Castro, Maduro & co a huge favor. …. day in day out!!!!!!

  3. Despite the admirable efforts of a few teachers and students, the damage done by Chavismo to an entire generation of future adults is savage and irreversible.

    The vast majority of teachers are mediocre, at best, and not teaching anymore. Same as their students, mediocre at best and absent. Most kids are forced to work and participate in countless Chavista scams, guisos, bogus programs, bachaqueos, enchufes.. or they join street gangs.

    An entire generation of uneducated potential thugs, leeches, sheep. The damage is done.

    On top of that, most of the few young people who were educated (a precious minority) has left or will leave Kleptozuela, to the tune of 5 Million, soon. So the new generation will be pathetic, no professional skills, no education, highly corruptible, while the best of the previous generation got the hell out, never to return.

    That’s one of the reasons why a country formerly known as Venezuela that we loved very much is doomed. Doomed to mediocrity, 3rd world corruption and massive ignorance. The most important element, the “Human Capital” – ‘el capital humano’ – was severely decimated. There are no patches or repair kits for that.

    • Exactly.

      My wifes family has left Venezuela. Although many of them miss it terribly, they are moving on. The same way they left Spain in the 1930’s.

      Venezuela has so much beauty and resources, yet the people have allowed it to become a sewer. Talk about pissing in your own soup! So much potential. So many things going for it… and now this disaster.

      My family just came back from some wonderful vacation destinations. My wife and I had a lovely time in Aruba, and we didn’t have the least concern about crime or hunger or disease. We met up with my wifes childhood friends, and lots of wine was poured. They had a great time. But guess what? Almost every single one of them had moved on from Venezuela. Because Venezuela, despite its potential, offered them NOTHING. It has become a shit-hole… a place that Colombians used to flee to has done a 180 degree turn.

      Venezuela is about to become Nicaragua/El Salvador. I honestly don’t see how this Titanic can be stopped from sinking. The people who could do something are leaving or have left. And the captains of the ship are insisting that “all is well… there was no iceberg! Its a CIA plot to make people think we are sinking!”

    • What i don’t understand is that universities supposedly are in decline for years, but you always read the news that the Venezuelans are the better prepared foreigners.

      • Depends. Basically, and up to some point, most of the people emigrating from Venezuela were people with college degrees, work experience, etc. Because they had the money to do so and better prospects elsewhere, while the poor were “covered” by the revolution, or so they thought at the time. So they may have been better prepared that other Latin American migrant populations where the proportions were more toward uneducated people searching for an escape from poverty.

        That has changed and now we have refugees in Colombia and Brazil, desperate poor people. Fleeing to Cúcuta is simpler and cheaper than going to the US or Europe. Although I would expect the set up of inmigrant routes to the US, they would be hampered by the fact that what can a poor Venezuelan give you? I mean, somebody from El Salvador can save a bit of money, get relatives to pitch in, and pay somebody to move from there to Mexico and Mexico to the US. A Venezuelan is going to have a difficult time finding the dollars to do that.

        Still, well, the universities have been on decay since I can remember – they were on decay when I was studying on the 90’s when you heard tales of the mythical 70’s USB.

        • A tidbit of information.. Years ago I went to a charitable cocktail hour were a group was trying to raise money to develop a food to feed to refugees.

          It had to be cheap to make, very stable to store a long time without refrigeration, light enough with it’s packaging to be air mobile, and finally culturally acceptable to anyone to eat. (IE no pork or meat)

          They settled on a peanut based food that did all of the above.

          Being Boca Raton, a (very attractive) young mother asked “what about people with peanut allergies??”

          The answer came from the grizzled woman who was the field expert.

          “When it comes time to feed a refugee population this food, everyone with a peanut allergy will already be dead”

          The diaspora of Vz will be better educated, younger smarter etc. than many around them, why?, because those were not, are either at home in Vz, or dead.

  4. La universidad pública no es sostenible en la situación actual. La universidad ha ido degenerando en un liceo público de mala calidad, en el que los laboratorios no funcionan, y lo poco de la infraestructura que no se han robado no tiene las mínimas condiciones de operación. Como ejemplo menciono a la Facultad de Ingeniería (UCV): en los últimos dos años se vandalizaron los AA para robar las tuberías de cobre, se robaron los mecanismos de los WCs y urinarios (fluxómetros), hay salones, laboratorios y pasillos sin iluminación suficiente, y las filtraciones se agravan porque no hay recursos para impermeabilizar. Ya no hablemos de los hurtos a las oficinas y asaltos en los alrededores de las distintas escuelas, que terminan de erosionar lo poco que queda en pie.

    Asimismo, no se puede hablar de calidad cuando las cátedras quedan en manos de profesores a tiempo convencional, recién graduados o profesores jubilados que no hacen investigación. Si no hay investigación (no hay recursos para eso desde hace al menos 5 años), no hay generación de conocimiento, ni desarrollo científico ni tecnológico. En los últimos meses hemos perdido a muchos de nuestros mejores profesores, quienes han preferido emigrar o jubilarse. Con la hiperinflación esta situación se agravará. Más profesores se jubilarán y buscarán nuevos trabajos, y más cátedras quedarán huérfanas, pues ya ni los estudiantes recién graduados desean ocupar los cargos vacantes.

    Tristemente, la respuesta de las autoridades no son más que los típicos lugares comunes (“las cosas no están tan mal”, “la situación país…”, “Se envió un comunicado al ministerio…”, etc). Las perspectivas no son nada alentadoras.

    Desde hace al menos un par de años lo correcto habría sido declarar el cierre técnico de muchas facultades, pero nadie se atreve por temor a convertirse en víctimas del aparato judicial chavista. Este año será la verdadera prueba de fuego de la política de apaciguamiento de las autoridades universitarias:como pretender que la universidad funcione normalmente cuando los problemas de presupuesto, transporte, alimentación e inseguridad se agravarán como consecuencia de la hiperinflación?

    Sobrevivirá la universidad pública venezolana el año 2018? Probablemente si, pero sólo en nombre, como espacios. un cascarón vacío. Ya no será la misma de hace unos años o décadas. Cómo el resto del país, su reconstrucción quedará pospuesta hasta que la dirección del país cambie, y cuando comience, tomará años.

    Volverá el talento que ha emigrado? Si, siempre que los incentivos estén presentes. Las condiciones económicas deben mejorar para ser atractivas. Hoy en día el salario mensual de un Profesor Asociado (10 años, doctorado) es $180 DICOM ($18 en el mercado negro), de lo cual hasta la mitad puede irse en cubrir un seguro médico que no resuelve ni la emergencia médica más elemental. En cualquier universidad latinoamericana el salario más bajo de un profesor es de $2.000/mes.

    La pregunta es: en un futuro proceso de reconstrucción del país será la universidad una prioridad? Incluso por encima del sistema hospitalario, el sistema de educación básica, la industria agroalimentaria o los servicios básicos (electricidad, agua, transporte)?

    • Francamente yo no soy optimista en lo de “regresará el talento emigrado”. No va a regresar. O mejor dicho, la proporción que va a regresar va a ser inversamente proporcional al tiempo que se tarde en 1) librarse de los Chavistas 2) Estabilizar el país.

      Los emigrantes, casi todos y de cualquier lado, se van con la idea de volver. Y de esos, vuelven muy pocos. Porque en la medida que desarrollas tu vida, te vas atando a donde estás. Ya tienes un trabajo y una antiguedad, ¿Lo vas a dejar todo?. A lo mejor ya tienes niños y estan en la escuela… ¿los llevas a un país que o ya no conocen o nunca conocieron? Relaciones personales, profesionales, etc..

      Cuanto mas tiempo pase, menos gente va a quedar en la edad y sin las ataduras para decidirse a cambiar de país dos veces.

    • Hey, where’s Shmucklehead from Canada?

      The asshole had the balls to call me out for criticizing a terrible article here because of bad writing, the one with the psychology bullshit. It was horribly written and boring.

      He even had the nerve (or is it a she or he-she?) to question my own writing skills.

      So Shmucklehead, is it okay with you that I LOVE this article? Or do I need your permission to feel one way or the other?

      Give me your # so I can text you my posts for your approval.

      What a jerkoff.

  5. While it is very admirable that these professors keep teaching, in the end, it is counterproductive.

    Chavismo expects people to sacrifice without reward. It makes their job (something for nothing) that much easier for them. So, these professors and teachers continue on (altruistically) and things just roll on for Chavismo.

    The sooner the wheels come completely off the wagon, the better for everyone. These teachers are delaying the inevitable, to everyone’s detriment. What they should be doing is taking advice from Ayn Rand… shrug. You have no duty to the Chavists. You are not doing yourself, nor your pupils any favors. If they want an education, they will either leave Venezuela or they will fight for it themselves.

    My first ever job, I was hired part time. No benefits, minimum wage. However, my boss (cabinet maker) offered me full time hours, which I desired. I soon found out that while I was getting full time work, I wasn’t getting full time benefits. I asked about getting hired on full time (with benefits) and he said “no”. So, I said I would only work my scheduled hours. No more extra shifts. He kept on and on about having extra work for me, and despite the desire for income, I kept refusing. After some work started to pile up, he finally hired me on full time. This would not have happened if I kept working the extra shifts.

    I did myself a favor by pulling a page out of the union playbook… “work-to-rule”. I showed up for work on time, did the work that I was required to do… but nothing more. I punched out at 5pm and I washed my hands of the problem.

    If these professors and teachers aren’t getting paid the value of their labor, they need to stop. SHRUG. It isn’t their duty to work as slave labor.

  6. University professors unilaterally withdrawing their labour will not help Venezuela and it will reward the regime by further weakening these institutions. It would save the regime money and give it a scapegoat.

    Where effective withdrawal of labour can occur is in sectors that support the productive parts of the economy and the material interests of the regime: transportation, banking, ports, resource extraction, critical support for infrastructure, trades. When Maduro boasted about the failure of the general strike a few months back, in an inadvertent admission of his regime’s vulnerability, he listed the sectors that did not strike that he relies on for his survival.

    These professionals who carry on with their calling, despite all the challenges, are admirable resistance to this regime, that wants to end independent thought and learning.

        • Had to Google that name, came across his blogs. Fuck me, if that isn’t a socialist Cunt trying to defend Chavismo I don’t know what he is. Canucklehead might very well be him, his love for the ultra left is very obvious. God how I despise those types of people, they are today’s societies cancer.

          • “Vold argues that Chavista opponents, particularly the private media, were caught lying and exaggerating so often that it actually helped corrupt officials evade accountability.

            Of course, the economic depression Venezuela is going through today is eagerly blamed on Chavez by the same outfits that lied about and distorted his years in office relentlessly. Vold’s book would have been even better with a chapter devoted to assessing that claim: that the Chavez years made the present crisis inevitable and that the only answer is to discard Chavismo. The root causes of the present crisis, as most effectively explained by UNASUR’s special economic team, are technical though there is certainly a political component – including a component of domestic and international sabotage.”

            Where does one start? Corrupt officials evade accountability because the private media helped? Got it.

            And while he painfully admits there’s certainly a political component to today’s shit hole status of Venezuela, the root causes are “technical”…..oh, and don’t underestimate the role of domestic and international sabotage.

            I don’t have hair on my head, but if I did, I’d pull it out when reading bullshit like this. There’s always got to be some nuanced explanation for the epic failures of socialist policies. It’s always someone or something else to blame.

    • “University professors unilaterally withdrawing their labour will not help Venezuela and it will reward the regime by further weakening these institutions. ”

      As for the former, I doubt it. Especially given official control over the unis and how their institutional independence has been gutted.

      Going Academic Galt at least allows the prospect of setting up new, untainted educational networks underground without having to deal with the regime’s censorship. Think the Polish Secret State’s underground schools during WWII.

      “It would save the regime money and give it a scapegoat.”

      Yeah, I don’t think the regime is overly concerned about either.

      If reality didn’t give it scapegoats, it will invent them out of whole cloth.

      And what little money the regime would save would be wasted elsewhere, while having he academics boycott would be it.

      “Where effective withdrawal of labour can occur is in sectors that support the productive parts of the economy and the material interests of the regime: transportation, banking, ports, resource extraction, critical support for infrastructure, trades. When Maduro boasted about the failure of the general strike a few months back, in an inadvertent admission of his regime’s vulnerability, he listed the sectors that did not strike that he relies on for his survival.”

      Effective withdrawal of labor is reliant on effective force to prevent Maduro and co from just doing what Poplavsky did to the protestors in Pozan and what the NatSco army did to the Dutch labor unions in late 1944. Simply go to the striking areas, start shooting people until they walk back on the job, or if there’s nobody left haul the corpses out, draft some new people, and get moving again.

      I don’t see that happening here because there is simply no other credible force that can contest the Chavezist military or the Collectivo paramilitaries.

      Which is a problem. Strikes can only be part of the solution.

      “These professionals who carry on with their calling, despite all the challenges, are admirable resistance to this regime, that wants to end independent thought and learning.”

      Yeah, I’m real sure that Maduro is crying all the way to the bank about said resistance.

      After all, it’s the kind that doesn’t endanger his grip on power in the foreseeable future. Short, Medium, or Perceivable Long term.

      • In summary, your argument against my position that professors should continue teaching (as described in this post) is:

        -professors should stop teaching because the universities are not worth saving
        -if professors stop teaching there will arise a system of underground schools that are not tainted and will be preferable to the existing institutions
        -Venezuelan money is not worth much so there is nothing wrong with people adopting forms of protest which inadvertently have the effect of saving the regime money
        -if professors were to withdraw their labour they would not be rounded up and shot, BUT
        -if other professionals and workers aside from professors were to withdraw their labour they would congregate and be shot by the regime and replaced
        -Maduro does not care if professors are working, so they should not work as a form of protest
        -there is no military force to oppose chavismo
        -strikes are only part of the solution.

        I think the only thing here you have said that makes any sense are the last two points, which I fully agree with.

    • “It would save the regime money”

      Which money would that be??… Those Mickey Mouse Bolivars. … I have “used toilet paper with shit stains” that’s worth more. You LeftAssCunt you.

  7. Chavez TV doing its best today to make Carnaval look exciting and, well, normal. It looks anything but.

    There are a few hard-cores out there though doing their part to help the regime. And at least one definite alta-chavista sighting on the beach, a walrus in a bikini.

    • How can one keep a healthy walrus figure on the Venezuelan diet? Reminds of the fat slob pallbearer – gangster in a recent article on this blog. Isn’t being hideously over weight an immediate giveaway that you are part of the problem?

      I am reminded of this video:

      • “Isn’t being hideously over weight an immediate giveaway that you are part of the problem?”

        It is. Without exception, every chavista enchufado here in town, male or female, suffers from dunlop’s disease.

          • Ira – that is the secondary meaning. Per Urban Dictionary, Dunlop’s Disease is “When you have overwhelming belly fat preventing you from being able to witness your own genitals. Also known as your spare tire.”

          • I will look more closely at the label the put on my beer bottles. Probably should say:

            “Warning: Over consumption of this product over the course of many years is known to cause Dicky Doo”

  8. I have been very fortunate to experience some great professors but none risked life and limb to teach me.. You have my respect for your commitment and your courage.

  9. For folks like the authors of this article, who are just trying to help educate others (presumably) without imposing a strict political purity agenda, while working for free or having to pay from their own pockets for the privilege, I salute you. But, I would not think less of them if they said “fuck it” and stopped teaching in order to pursue a better life for themselves and their families.

    But if college instructors/professors in Venezuela are anything like the ones in the US (and Canada), then the vast majority, at least i non-STEM fields, are socialist, and presumably big Chavismo supporters. Maybe this experience is causing them to re-think their views, but I doubt it.

      • the government made their own universities, which have a much better budget than the old independent ones. The ones to look out for are the ones with “fuerzas armadas” or “bolivariana” in the name

  10. Damn, my woman just showed me a short video on her phone. Stepdaughter No. 2, the one who’s thinking of quitting the country, and several friends preparing arepas in her apartment in Barcelona. They filled a friggin ice chest with arepas.

    “She selling arepas”, I asked. Mom……”no, just wait”.

    They headed to a part of the city where a bunch of kids live on the streets. Arepas and jugo de parchita for everyone!!

    Crap, I don’t know what to say, other than I’m so proud of her. I hope she doesn’t leave. The country will be better off with her here.

  11. If any of the authors or anybody else has a good idea how can we help from abroad… Trying to keep some form of higher education going is a worthy goal, if only to ensure there is a seed from which the tree can grow again after this disaster passes.

  12. Of course. But not cheap, and unless you have the cash, you’re not going to be able to get U.S. backed student loans as a foreigner.

    My younger son is getting his English degree online, minor in Asia Studies, then a masters in education. He’s also learning Japanese, because he wants to live in Japan one day.

    Kid has brains and motivation, totally unlike his father. When I was his age, I smoked weed all day.

    He’s very academic minded, and to his DIScredit, not very social. He can’t stand the bullshit and distractions of a regular campus, and is literally on that computer 12 to 18 hours a day doing his work.

    It bothers me, but what can I do? He’s learning five times as much as he would in “regular” university, and just last night, he interestingly told me how he loved how online education doesn’t get political, like all of the leftists teaching on American campuses these days.

    And he voted for Trump. Doesn’t LOVE him like me, but supports his policies.

    • I know a lot of academics are howling about online education, but hey, I’ll wager that the buggy-whip makers weren’t too happy about automobiles either.

      • Many regular universities have added online study as well.

        With the costs of dormitory/lodging/food for sleepaway college, or significant travel time for local college, online study has naturally gained enormous traction.

        And no binge drinking.

    • Another interesting analogy about online education:

      I don’t know where you lived at the time, and I can’t remember the exact time period but it was decades ago…

      But here in the states, there was a huge campaign by movie theaters across the country to “Stop Pay TV.” Pay TV being cable, which they thought would totally kill the movie theater business.

      Now, I do believe they experienced a dip, can’t say for sure, but in the end the theaters did just fine and continue to do so. Cable entertainment actually complemented their business and grew the industry as a whole.

      Funny how these business predictions, in this instance a prediction of gloom and doom, turn out to be totally wrong.

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