Inequality in Peru’s education sector deepens in the post-pandemic era – Global Issues

18-year-old Rodrigo Reyes was forced to drop out of school in 2020 because his family couldn’t afford to pay for the internet or electronic equipment to allow him to take classes online, just as he was about to graduate high school and thought. about learning mechanics, his dream. Since then, he has worked as a vendor at his mother’s stall in a market on the outskirts of the Peruvian capital. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS
  • by Mariela Jara (mucus)
  • Interpress service

This number includes elementary and middle school students who were enrolled for the school year but did not complete it.

In March 2020, the country introduced distance learning as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19, which meant that access to the Internet and electronic devices was essential. Online classes continued until 2022, when students returned to the classroom.

However, this period has seen a deepening of inequalities in access and quality of education, affecting students living in poverty or students who are part of the rural and indigenous population.

Peru is a multicultural and multi-ethnic country with just over 33 million inhabitants, where poverty affected 25.9 percent of the population in 2021, which is 4.2 percentage points less than in 2020, but still 5.7 points more than in 2019, the year before the outbreak of a pandemic. Financial poverty officially affected 39.7 percent of rural residents and 22 percent of urban residents, reflecting a huge social divide.

“We’re talking about elementary and middle school students who are always the ones who don’t do well in their studies, the ones who, quote unquote, fail the student census assessment tests, who live in provinces that are ranked last nationally,” Rossana said. Mendoza, University Professor of Intercultural Bilingual Education.

“They are the same young people who face a number of disadvantages and services, they are indigenous people who speak a language other than Spanish, for whom the Aprendo en Casa (learning at home) program launched by the government was not an adequate response,” he said. added in an interview with IPS at his home in the Jesús María district of Lima.

But students in poor suburbs also suffered. Mendoza said they had to alternate school work with helping their parents while working to support the family, thus spending very little time studying.

That’s what happened to Reyes, who had no choice but to drop out of school and dream of becoming a heavy machinery technician.

“I planned to finish school at 16, I finished with my friends and then I planned to prepare myself to apply to an institute and become a mechanic… but that didn’t happen,” he told IPS. her mother’s stand selling food and other products in her neighborhood’s Santa Marta market, where she has worked full-time since the pandemic began.

Reyes lives on the outskirts of the Ate district, one of Lima’s 43, located in the eastern part of the capital. Like a large part of the population of the district with nearly 600,000 inhabitants, his family also came inland in search of better opportunities.

“I’ve always believed that learning is what pulls people out of ignorance, liberates us, and that’s what we wanted for our children when we came to Lima with my husband. That’s why it hurts me so much that we haven’t been able to afford to support Rodrigo’s plans,” said the young man mother Elsa García sadly told IPS.

The pandemic dealt a big blow to the family’s precarious budget, and Rodrigo and his two younger siblings were kicked out of school in 2020. The following year, only the younger siblings could return to their studies.

“With my help in the store, we managed to save some money and my father was able to buy a mobile phone for my siblings to use, and now they have Internet sharing. I have to continue to support them so that they can finish school and become professionals. maybe I will be able to do it later,” he said Rodrigo.

Before the pandemic, there were barriers to education in this South American country. Delia Paredes, who left school before completing her basic education because she became pregnant, knows this well. Today he is 17 years old and has not been able to continue his studies.

She lives with her parents and younger sisters in a rural area outside Neshulla, a city of 7,500 in the central-eastern Ucayal region of Peru’s Amazon jungle. His father, Úber Paredes, is a farmer who has no land of his own and works as a laborer on neighboring farms, earning less than $100 a month.

“I haven’t had time to buy my daughter the necessary shoes and clothes and school supplies to continue her studies, and after the birth of the child she became a housewife who helped my wife… I have no money, there is a lot of poverty around here,” he told IPS by phone in Neshulla.

Her younger daughters, Alexandra and Deliz, are in school and returned to the classroom this year. Alexandra feels sorry for her older sister. “She always repeats that she wanted to become a nurse. I have told her that if I become a teacher and work, I will help her,” she said.

Early pregnancy, such as Delia’s, which law enforcement organizations considered coercive because it is usually the result of rape, reached 2.9 percent of girls and adolescents ages 12 to 17 in 2021. Like poverty, it is concentrated in rural areas, with 4.8 percent compared to 2.3 percent in urban areas.

Widening gaps

In 2020, before the pandemic was declared, 8.2 million children and adolescents attended school nationwide. In May 2022, the total number of children and adolescents participated was nearly 6.8 million. Education authorities expected the gap to narrow over the next few months, but have not released information on that.

In 2020, nearly a quarter of a million schoolchildren were forced to leave school at the national level, in 2021, this number was nearly 125,000. However, by 2022, the gap has widened, and in the current academic year that began in March, nearly 670,000 people have not registered.

This gap has occurred despite the fact that the Ministry of Education launched a national emergency plan for Peru’s education system from the second half of 2021 to the first half of 2022, which aims to create the conditions necessary to bring back children who have dropped out of school. .

Professor Mendoza said that the priority is to bring back to school the part of the population that has the right to education. “There is a need for a strategy that provides support not only in terms of learning, but also in terms of the difficulties that dropout students face in coping with their families, who have lost a mother, father or grandparents due to the pandemic,” he said.

“You have to see them in that context, and not just because they’re academically underachieving. To see that they’re at a terrible disadvantage going forward in life and that they’re being left out of the education system,” he said.

He added that it is necessary to clearly define the target group. “Peru’s school management system, which is quite developed, should allow us to know who these children and adolescents are, what their names are, where they live, what has happened to their families and how the school system can offer them opportunities. their current living conditions.”

Mendoza explained that not only are they out of the system, but their living conditions have changed and they cannot be expected to return to the school system as if nothing had happened after falling further into poverty or being orphaned.

© Inter Press Service (2022) — all rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service