Photo: Contexto Diario retrieved.

Three weeks ago, Carmen Hidalgo accepted being part of the body of teachers in a private high school in San Bernardino. “Every time I took my daughter, the owner, who was always at the door, asked me if I wanted to teach. He told me they needed teachers for biology, literature, physics and guidance. I laughed and told him I graduated in a different area and I was no teacher, but as the first term passed, I accepted and took my daughter’s class, third year.”

Carmen was told the task was temporary. “I don’t think (they’ll find someone else), the pay isn’t very attractive. They’re putting out the call for new teachers and nobody comes, only parents.”

“I spend Bs.S. 90 to get to school, that’s two thirds of my monthly salary,” said Érika Sánchez, recently graduated from the Libertador Experimental Pedagogical University, the top school for aspiring teachers. “That’s why I miss classes so much.”

Declining education

Professor Orlando Alzura, from the Venezuelan Federation of Teachers, says that the crisis intensified in the last two years and, this year in particular, there was a serious breakdown after the economic measures of August 17. Misery pushed many to leave their posts.

I spend Bs.S. 90 to get to school, that’s two thirds of my monthly salary.

Now it’s hard to find a teacher. The salary is between $0.3 and $0.5 at the moment; the Education Ministry’s insurance for Hospitalization, Surgery and Maternity (HCM) only covers Bs.S. 200 (a soda can), and funeral insurance is merely Bs.S. 150 (a cup of coffee). There are no incentives for teaching at schools that may be at dangerous slums.

There are 350,000 teachers in the Education Ministry’s payroll. Of that total, Alzuru estimates that only between 25% and 30% are teaching.

“And they’re not all leaving the country, some don’t go to school because they can’t pay for transport. That happens in both the public and private sectors.”

People who work in schools of low-income areas, like La Vega, Antímano, El Valle and Gramoven, don’t have it easy.

“Perhaps there’s lots of vocation, but no alternatives,” says Érika Sánchez. “Our pay is bad, there’s no transport, we get to school and classes are suspended because there’s no water, no power or there are worms everywhere because of trash. Then you see the classroom dwindle from 30 to 15 students. They don’t attend for our same reasons: they can’t pay the bus and they have no food.”

When the School Food Program was around, attendance was better. “I saw children eat half of what they got and take the rest home for their parents. That’s a reality. The program is irregular now, there could be only rice, pasta or perhaps just a buttered arepa.”

Recycling teachers

Lila Vega, member of the parents and representatives’ network, says they’re training professionals in fields that match school subjects. They’re inducted into teaching and hired.

“Perhaps there’s lots of vocation, but no alternatives,” says Érika Sánchez. “Our pay is bad, there’s no transport, we get to school and classes are suspended.”

In La Vega, the San Alberto Hurtado network trains people from the community itself. One of them, Yenny Mantilla, is a full-fledged teacher now, on her sixth semester at college. There’s also Ada, a parent and worker who also became part of Canaima School.

Last year, the government tried to solve the situation with the “express” graduation of teachers from the Bolivarian University, but there’s no guarantee or quality of training. Professor Alzuru believes there can’t be improvisation in education.

“A person needs proper training to teach, and what we see now is that [the government] doesn’t care about training: the Central University’s Education school has no budget; its counterpart in Zulia already shut down and in the Los Andes University, it’s going the same way. We have less and less teachers, there are no candidates and with a minimum wage of BsS. 2,600, when the food basket surpasses BsS. 46,000, they prefer to leave school.”

Carmen, Yenny and Ada are now heroines, but who knows for how long.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. I was literally next door to a elementary/middle school in CCS (San Bernadino) in Sept/Oct this year. The 2 girls in my house went to the school. I happened to meet the principal when the school reconvened after vacation. The principal knew I was American (English speaker), but never tried to recruit me.

  2. One of the doctors who graduated with me is working at a small town in the middle of the mountains in Mérida. Besides running the small outpatient clinic in the place, he’s also teaching english at the local high school.

  3. “A person needs proper training to teach, and what we see now is that [the government] doesn’t care about training.”

    A tragic lack of education was the fundamental reason for the emergence of Chavismo. The aberrant populist propaganda was well-suited for ignorant ears. The lack of professional training also contributed in sinking the economy, and the country in general. And it’s only getting worse now, with less teachers, less students, plus the massive Exodus of about 3 million people, many of the best, educated, skilled ones long gone. And to top it all, the few “teachers” are not real teachers, we can only guess the chavistoide crap they “teach”, the blind leading the blind.

    Inevitably, this creates an entire generation of ignorant, clueless, unskilled people. No country can generate progress or produce anything with such a depleted, lamentable work force. Regardless of the government in place, chavista or not. That’s another reason why Venezuela is doomed for decades to come. With such an abysmal lack of education, the populace becomes a mass of beggars and thieves. You could eventually control the thievery and corruption with a tough, tough government from the Right. But you just can’t fix stupid and clueless. Only good teachers can do that, and it takes generations.

  4. “I spend Bs.S. 90 to get to school, that’s two thirds of my monthly salary,”

    So how can they possibly even survive? Can anyone do the math? What’s the average salary among average professions: office workers, construction workers, in PDVSA or Corpoelec, a bus driver, even a dentist or nurse? 500 Bs.S ? 1000 Bs.S ??

    Now what does that buy you? 2 cups of coffee, some spaghetti – no sauce – a bus ticket, some yuca or a few mangoes? What about cell-phone service (electricity must be free, like gas), what about some cable tv, or a pair of shoes and a backpack for school? Toothpaste, shampoo, soap, washing machine detergent?

    Where the hell do they get money from? It simply does not add up. If the poor teachers don’t teach anymore, how do they buy food or clothes? Cleaning houses for the wealthy, corrupt chavistas? Dribing taxis? Who can afford a taxi? What about spare parts, spark plugs, tune-ups, a set of tires?

    Something is fishy. Most people must be involved in some shady chanchullo. Some palanca, some tigrito. Some Enchufe with the filthy ‘government’. Otherwise, please be my guest and you do the math.

    • I agree Poeta, it just does not add up. Those planning to remain or those who cannot leave for whatever reason, must be obtaining money through corruption or if not corrupt, just remittances from family members outside the country

  5. Something on which nearly all the authorities agree is that, whatever their other faults and cruelty, the first generation of Soviets put great emphasis on schooling, so that the first generation of Soviet children were better educated than their predecessors under tsardom. This article apparently shows yet another example of how the Chavismo Revolution is not serious – the standards of education up to and including university are in serous decline (except for the chosen few children of the governmental elite, of course).

      • The chavistas dream of the days of Simón Bolívar when el pueblo were slaves attached to the land. Here’s the degeneration: urbanization, dependence, poverty, tribalism, slavery. Marxism provides the force behind the degeneration.

  6. “…además de varios reconocimientos mensuales…”

    This most be a bad translation. How can someone get several awards per month? Who gives those awards? Why? Lost in translation.

  7. “These fellows, in my closest family circle they swear to God that they are not ”enchufados”. However, they run parties with imported wine and Black-Label.”

    With “minimum salaries”, worth 2 bananas and an arepa with plain butter.

    I haven’t been to Las Mercedes or any Kleptozuelan restaurant in a long time, but I bet 95.99 of the patrons are ENCHUFADOS: THIEVES.

    Are you one of them, the majority?

  8. We gave shelter to a woman from Vzla (here in Germany) with her son who has the German nationality. He is 8 years old and cant read a single word. 8 years would be 2nd or 3rd grade.
    Today we went to a government office for migrants (its the law to have children checked if they are able to attend school) and there we saw it, not a single word he can read (in spanish) :0

  9. Turns out that “free and universal” means “expensive and exclusive.” Isn’t that hilarious?!

    It’s the punch-line for every leftist fantasy.

  10. The riddle, as Poeta mentioned, is: If a teacher cannot afford bus fare to get to school, what do they eat with the money they don’t have? Nobody is starving to death, right? Hungry, for sure, but starvation has not taken out big swaths of the population. Who eats what, from whom, and who pays for it? The numbers are lying.

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