NGO: Nearly 80 Percent of Venezuelan Children Have Stopped Attending School

Thousands of people from Urena and San Antonio depend on crossing the Colombian border for school, work and shopping
JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images

Nearly 80 percent of Venezuelan children have stopped attending school, according to a report published Thursday by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Fundaredes.

The study found that more than 78 percent of children have not attended school at some point in 2019 and 66 percent do not attend on a regular basis. This trend is exacerbated by the absenteeism of teaching staff, approximately 67 percent of whom regularly miss work, often because of the country’s crumbling transport system.

Fundaredes also found a shortage of didactic and technological materials for classroom work and a lack of updated textbooks for students and teachers. Many schools have had to shut down due to lack of staff and the recent power outages that shut down nearly all public services.

Presenting the report to the Venezuelan Public Ministry, the organization’s Director General Javier Tarazona said that the current situation “represents a humanitarian emergency in education” and called for the “immediate restitution of the right to the plural and democratic free education.”

“There is a systematic violation of the right to education and we are also talking about school absenteeism that exceeds 66 percent of children, who end up not attending school frequently,” said Tarazona.

The report also underlined the country’s chronic lack of food supplies. It found 87 percent of schools failing to comply with the School Feeding Program that gives children the right to free meals. In the few schools that do manage to provide meals, in 96 percent of such cases the food does not meet the basic nutritional requirements established by the National Nutrition Institute.

Last year, El Universal reported that around half of Venezuelan children were skipping school solely due to hunger. That figure is likely to have worsened since then.

With regard to higher education, the report also found that in 50 of the country’s top universities, 65 percent of the teaching, administrative, and labor staff have made requests for sabbaticals and unpaid leave. There are also high rates of absenteeism among students, many of whom struggle to attend classes due to transport issues or the need to work.

“Venezuelan universities are going through the darkest moment in the history of the Republic,” Tarazona said.

The breakdown of education is one of the many crises resulting from the socialist policies carried out by Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro; practically every public service from healthcare to transport is on the brink of total collapse.

According to figures from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, around 90 percent of the Venezuelan population lives in poverty, a reality that has led to thousands of people fleeing the country every day, many of whom are in need of humanitarian assistance.

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