BOLIVIA: Salesian University of Bolivia Adds Master’s Degree in Rights of the Child
(MissionNewswire) The Salesian University of Bolivia and the Salesian International Volunteers for Development (VIS), in collaboration with the Bolivian government and with assistance from the Bolivian Episcopal Conference, has achieved recognition for a master’s degree in the rights of the child. Currently, there are more than 230 students enrolled in the program who are taking courses towards a degree.
The program at the university offers both lectures and online sessions that provide students a platform for participating in group discussion and idea exchange. Courses are taught by Latin American professors and European academics with support from leading child rights professionals from major international organizations like UNICEF. Using a multidisciplinary approach, the program brings together experts in law, education, psychology, sociology and history while offering in depth analysis of legal, cultural and practical applications. The degree program is seven months in length and consists of 19 proficiency tests.
The curriculum was designed specifically to address issues facing children in Bolivia. Coursework emphasizes the right to education and play in contrast to the issue of child labor, a very delicate topic in the country. The right to family is of great concern since Bolivia is plagued by low adoption and foster care rates that result in many children spending long periods of time in orphanages.
The program also focuses on a child’s right to be safe and free from violence, an issue important in Bolivia where children often face abuse, maltreatment, neglect and severe bullying. In addition, specific attention is devoted to issues faced by children with disabilities and the rights of children who have committed a crime, especially pertinent given that the country still lacks appropriate laws for juvenile offenders.
“The master’s program also strongly emphasizes the principle of participation and recognizes that children have a right to express themselves on issues that concern them,” says Lorenzo Marfisi, project coordinator and one of the teachers of the program.
Due to the rigorous demands of the program, not all graduate students successfully reach completion. Close to 80 percent of students were admitted to the final test this year.
“This work is more important now than ever,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Children face a number of obstacles in Bolivia that can prevent them from leading healthy productive lives. The number of children living on the streets has reached crisis proportions. Without help from Salesian missionaries in the country, poor youth fall through the cracks of a society bent on pushing them aside and the cycle of poverty and hopelessness continues.”
Bolivia is the poorest country in South America and also has the most unequal income distribution on the continent. According to UNICEF, 60 percent of Bolivians live below the poverty line with 40 percent of those living in extreme poverty. The poverty rate is higher in rural areas where the rate increases to 75 percent of the population. It is common for Bolivians to struggle to find adequate nutrition, shelter and other basic necessities.
The geography of Bolivia contributes to the overwhelming poverty of its residents. Large swaths of the country remain undeveloped with a lack of roads and infrastructure in place, negatively impacting the indigenous farming populations who typically live there. According to UNICEF, Only half of rural children complete primary school and many others leave school to help support their families. There are others who are left homeless by parents who cannot afford to care for them and those who leave their homes to escape violence.
UNICEF – Bolivia