PARAGUAY: Salesian students from the María Auxiliadora Salesian Technical School hold protest to ask government for funding to support teachers
(MissionNewswire) In recent years, students in Paraguay have protested on various occasions to demand an improvement in education. Salesian missionaries working in Paraguay are not strangers to this issue. Recently students from the María Auxiliadora Salesian Technical School, located in Minga Guazú, a city and district of the Alto Paraná Department in Paraguay, have engaged in protests to ask for the government’s commitment to improved education. Primarily the protest was focused on the lack of funding for teachers so students could continue their lessons.
“We want to be formed, but they want to mutilate our future, kill our dreams,” said the Salesian students at a press conference. “We are fed up with promises. Education should not have only one color, but the colors of our flag.”
More than 100 pre-enrolled students could not start their first-year lessons at the center because of insufficient funding. Faced with the lack of government support for teachers, about 300 people including students, teachers and parents blocked Route 7, the national route of Paraguay, with stalls.
The students asked the Ministry of Education and Science to assign resources to the vocational courses for electro-technicians, agricultural mechanics, general mechanics and agro-mechanics. The Salesian technical school offers more than 300 students a high school education that is unique in offering this kind of coursework.
The students’ studies were interrupted because of a lack of funding from the government. Salesian Father Pablino González, director of the school, has noted that the Departmental Education Coordinator, Eligio Martínez, has provided support for more than 1,800 hours of teaching and that there is a commitment to increase resources in the coming months. The municipality also promised a monthly monetary contribution.
On Feb. 21, a resolution was signed in which the District Municipal Council declared an “Educational Emergency” to accelerate efforts to obtain the resources the school required. School lessons were then able to continue on Feb. 25.
Ceferino Ruiz, Director General of the Ministry, along with Father Mario Villalba, provincial of the Salesian missionaries, will host a round table discussion on the issues. This will also be attended by Martínez; the supervisors, Francisca Benítez de Rios and Gill Montiel; the deputy, Blanca de Caballero; the mayor, Digno Caballero; and student representatives and Father Pablino González.
Salesian missionaries have been working in Paraguay since establishing a church in Asunción in 1896. Through the years, missionaries have operated educational programs to help advance the skills and knowledge of the indigenous population in the area while promoting strong cooperation with leaders of the indigenous culture. Local Salesian programming supports laws in favor of the indigenous populations, the recovery of original lands, sustainable development, the appreciation of cultural values in each ethnic group and the fostering of internal leadership.
Paraguay is among the poorest countries in South America. According to UNICEF, almost 23 percent of its population of 6.5 million people live in poverty earning less than $1 per day. The gap between the small upper class and the large lower class is extreme and offers virtually no social mobility.
Conditions of poverty drive youth into early labor and a lack of literacy, in addition to a weak educational foundation, compounds the problem. Those in poverty face overcrowding, low quality housing and a lack of access to basic household services. Paraguayans who only graduate from primary school are twice as likely to live in poverty as those who have access to and complete secondary school.
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UNICEF – Paraguay Statistics
World Bank – Paraguay