Photo: El Estímulo

I, like any reasonable parent, want my daughter to have a good education. The thing is, it’s not a matter of what I want, it’s how much I can afford. AnaT was born only months before Venezuela’s hyperinflation kicked in, so my husband and I knew we’d have to work hard to pay for her private education every single month.

We, Venezuelans, are now accustomed to pay very little for everything.

We, Venezuelans, are now accustomed to pay very little for everything. We actually think, at least subconsciously, that subsidized prices were the actual value of goods and services, so when prices started being set in dollars (though still not at international levels), everyone started shouting “especuladores.” I even heard economists and other professionals using that card, which got me worried.

It’s rather absurd that Venezuelans want to set their salaries in hard currency (and charge it at the black market rate or hard currency per se), but don’t think it’s fair that they have to pay in hard currency “because it’s not Venezuela’s legal tender.” Trust me, I’ve heard this more times than you could imagine.

And this is precisely the problem private schools are facing.

Parents want the best teachers for their kids, but some aren’t willing to pay what that service costs, like if they won’t (or can’t pay) for it, the private school must subsidize itself. But here’s the kicker: private schools don’t subsidize delay payments, it’s the other parents that have to cover for delays. And if it’s hard to afford your kid’s education, can you imagine having to cover everyone else’s school fees?

Parents want the best teachers for their kids, but some aren’t willing to pay what that service costs.

And don’t even get me started on the free-rider problem.

Education is, as a matter of fact, a human right. More specifically, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognizes a right to free, compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all, and an obligation to develop equitable access to higher education.

However, when most parents say “it’s my kid’s right to have the best education,” they’re using the wrong adjective.

Public, free and mandatory education for all Venezuelans was decreed way back in 1870. Hence, it’s the State’s responsibility to guarantee it, not the private schools’ and their fee-paying parents. Also, it’s not “the best” education Venezuelan kids are entitled to from birth, it’s “public” education. Not necessarily the same.

So if parents decide they want a better education for their kids, they have to pay for it. As simple as that.

And while it might sound insensitive, it’s a fact that not everyone can afford a private school. That’s why citizens expect their taxes to fund education (and other public services) for their families.

If parents decide they want a better education for their kids, they have to pay for it.

We, as citizens, should urge the government to provide high-quality public education, even if we know the Maduro government will never offer high-quality, non-politicized education, and it’ll take quite a while for a new government to do so. I guess it’s easier to pressure private schools into doing whatever the hell you want, under threat of chavista intervention, whose sole mission is, and has always been, to limit and control private activity.

Don’t get me wrong: I cringe at the idea of having to pay for my kids education in hard currency, because I have to work my butt off to make a dime. Yes, sometimes private schools overcharge, which has to be dealt on a case-to-case basis, but I choose to do it because I want my daughter to have the best.

And “the best” costs money.

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