SUCRE, Bolivia — In 2006, Evo Morales became the first Bolivian president from an indigenous background. Consequently, Morales took on issues relating to indigenous populations, such as illiteracy. For years, indigenous populations in Bolivia, although they are the ethnic majority, were oppressed and denied many educational opportunities. From 2006 to today, education equality in Bolivia has been and continues to improve briskly.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “literacy is a requisite for basic survival.” Moreover, the Millennium Development Goals of 2000 consider literacy integral to the development of the country and to eradicating poverty. As a result, literacy was high on President Morales’ agenda, which is why he implemented the “Yo, sí puedo” (Yes I can) policy in 2006.
Ten years later, the “Yes, I Can” and “Yes, I Can Continue” campaigns of 2006 and 2009 respectively are still affecting many indigenous people positively. A recent BBC article praises Keyla Guzman Velez, an educator for the “Yo, sí puedo” program.
Velez is especially passionate about educating indigenous working women who do not have the time to learn reading and writing between caring for their families and working. Velez found the solution in bringing her lessons to the women. She provides short lessons for literacy to women while they work as vendors on the streets of La Paz.
A 2010 law took another step toward education equality in Bolivia when the Avelino Siñani-Elizardo Pérez Bolivian Education Law was approved. This act enforces Morales’ goal to decolonize education and reverses many of the inherently racist components of the previous education system which attempted to erase indigenous culture.
Additionally, Bolivia has been innovative in integrating modern technology and taking advantage of international resources to provide high-quality educational opportunities for free. Education USA recently hosted an MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) Camp in Bolivia to teach youths about running their own successful businesses.
Unfortunately, the education system in Bolivia is not yet perfect. Primary and secondary school are compulsory, but only primary school is guaranteed to be free. Consequently, high drop out rates after primary school contribute to the illiteracy rate; over one million Bolivian citizens over the age of 15 are illiterate.
The populations which suffer most from illiteracy and lack of education are those in rural areas. Moving forward, Bolivia needs to focus on expanding opportunities to these communities the way they have accommodated the needs of aging indigenous populations. Given their history of successfully and speedily implementing change, the future of education equality in Bolivia is promising.
– Sabrina Yates