Education, Economics, and Violence: A Venezuelan Tale

Rudolf D’Silva

In the past few months a series of protests have erupted on the streets of Venezuela, leading to regular bursts of violence amongst protesters and police officials, as reported by Andrew Cawthorne of Independent news (Cawthorne, par. 2 & 9). Furthermore, it is reported that much of the violence is resulting from the economic collapse of Venezuela’s oil industry, making it difficult for the government to provide food imports for the countries populous, according to Flora Charner of CNN (Charner, par. 3). Several conservative media outlets, such as Fox News, have reported that the people of Venezuela believe the food shortage is the result of the countries socialist style government (Baier). However, many Venezuelan government officials, including president Nicolas Maduro believe this is nothing more than a coup, which has been instigated by American operatives within the country (Cawthorne 12).

Nonetheless, the violence which has emerged from protests has caused many families across Venezuela to not send their children to school, at least until the violence subsides (Cawthorne 19). Although the news articles do not state the reasoning why families are keeping their children from attending school, it can be reasonably presumed that families fear for their children’s safety. Although cities, such as Caracas, already have a reputation for being dangerous, the recent surge in violence, resulting from the protests and economic hardships, has led to a further rise in criminal acts such as robbery and murder (Charner 1-20). It is no wonder why parents are cautious about sending their children to school in Venezuela. It is likely most parents want to shield their children from the chaos ensuing throughout the country. Also, it is likely, parents are keeping their children from attending schools to protect them from physical harm, which may result while traveling to and from school, as well as while being in school.

Violence in any community largely affects student’s ability to gain a quality education. Although having inadequate time in a classroom setting influences how much any given student will learn, the drastic effects on education result from the hostile environment violence nurtures. The hostile environment violence fosters impact student’s ability to focus and retain precious information that may benefit students in their future. In the long run, hindering the educational quality of Venezuelan students could lead to a less productive nation. The economic situation in Venezuela, contributing to the protests and violence, is an issue the Venezuelan government will need to resolve soon in order to minimize the educational collateral which may result from it.

References

Charner, F. (2016, October 15). The face of hunger in Venezuela. CNN. Retrieved October 25, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/13/americas/cnnphotos-venezuela-food-crisis/

Cawthorne, A., & Ulme, A. (2016, October 27). Ozens injured as violent protests erupt in Venezuela against ‘incompetent autocrat’ President Maduro. Independent. Retrieved October 27, 2016, from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/venezuela-nicolas-maduro-violent-protests-anti-government-demonstrations-caracas-a7382421.html

Rawlins, C. G. (2016, October 26). Opposition supporters take part in a rally against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas[Photograph]. Reuters, Independent, Venezuela. https://news.vice.com/article/venezuelan-police-and-anti-government-protesters-clash-as-crisis-continues

Venezuela’s collapse prompts surge in asylum seekers [Video file]. (2016, September 20).Retrieved October 27, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DyV8xtQslM

Kashmir unrest and its toll on the youth

Vaibhav Karajgikar

Over a hundred days of unrest in the Kashmir valley is having devastating effects on civilian life on either side of the Line of Control (LoC).  Repeated ceasefire violations from both sides has stripped the region of any normalcy, forcing people caught in the cross fire to seek refuge in safer regions (Rising Kashmir; October 22, 2016). The violence has been escalating not just in terms of clashes between military forces, but also in the form of protests by pro separatist groups, resulting in an increasing number of casualties as a consequence of police action to curb such demonstrations (Pakistan Times; October 22, 2016).

With a significant percentage of those partaking in protests being youth, the authorities are now stressing on more restraint on the part of police forces to prevent further bloodshed (Rising Kashmir; October 21, 2016). However, there seems to be a lack of a cohesive strategy in the approach towards rectifying the damage done as a result of schools in the region remaining shut for over three months. Amidst mounting tensions, loss of life and damage to property, the State Government is pushing for important Board level examinations to be conducted in November. Without sufficient time to practice and poor coverage of the syllabus content, students are simply not prepared to appear for the exams (Scroll.in; October 16, 2016). Furthermore, there are a number of students that have been detained by Indian authorities on charges of rioting and inciting violence. Such students have been temporarily jailed, some of whom are under the age of eighteen years, drawing criticism from a wider international audience on the violation of basic rights and the treatment of underage offenders. Instead of releasing detained youth so that they may appear for the exams, an absurd proposal by certain officials from the education ministry to conduct examinations for such youth within jail cells and police stations is yet another example of insensitivity towards the plight and future of students (Greater Kashmir; October 22, 2016). The situation only seems to be getting worse with certain organizations from Pakistan calling for overt military support to the separatist groups to aid with their struggle for freedom (Dawn; October 21, 2016). Apart from the fact that such action would tantamount to a full scale war, the influence of political and militant groups is serving to shift the mindset of people in the region towards a violent solution rather than a bilateral one as may be achieved through discussions at state level.

A baseline issue captured in the Border Times Pakistan article (August 14, 2016) is that of inculcating divisive mentalities in young students through an inherently biased approach in the curriculum. With such opposing viewpoints on a shared history, children in both the nations are exposed to narrowly interpreted view of events that have shaped and are continuing to influence the region. The prejudices instilled in young minds serve to perpetuate the cycle of animosity. The History Project is an example of how a deeper and inclusive understanding of different points of view can be instrumental towards changing the outlook of young children. In the long run, inculcating values of tolerance and an unbiased approach to alternative narratives through curriculum design can go a long way to bring about a change in the mindsets.

References:

  • “400 border residents evacuated after Pakistani firing”, Rising Kashmir; October 22, 2016; http://www.risingkashmir.com/news/400-border-residents-evacuated-after-pakistani-firing; retrieved on October 22, 2016
  • “Indian forces kill youth, death toll in occupied Kashmir rises to 111”, Pakistan Times; October22,2016; http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/10/22/national/indian-forces-kill-youth-death-toll-in-occupied-kashmir-rises-to-111/ ; retrieved on October 22, 2016
  • Faisul Yaseen, “Stop policing, start parenting: Mehbooba to JKP”, Rising Kashmir; October 21, 2016; http://www.risingkashmir.com/news/stop-policing-start-parenting-mehbooba-to-jkp; retrieved on October 22, 2016
  • Rayan Naqash, “In Kashmir, students lost out on school for close to three months – but still have exams coming up”, Scroll.in; OCtober 13, 2016; http://scroll.in/article/818275/in-kashmir-students-lost-out-on-school-for-close-to-three-months-but-still-have-exams-coming-up ; retrieved on October 22, 2016
  • Syed Rizwan Geelani, “BOSE censures Education Minister’s ‘jail as exam center’ proposal”, Greater Kashmir, October 22, 2016; http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/front-page/bose-censures-education-minister-s-jail-as-exam-center-proposal/231507.html;  retrieved on October 22, 2016
  • Tariq Naqash, “Pakistan urged to extend ‘military support’ to Kashmiris”, Dawn, October 22, 2016; http://www.dawn.com/news/1291318/pakistan-urged-to-extend-military-support-to-kashmiris; retrieved on October 22, 2016
  • “Why do Indian and Pakistani textbooks tell wildly different histories?”, Border Times Pakistan, August 14, 2016; http://198.178.127.12/~borderti/?p=2122; retrieved on October 22, 2016

Gang Violence in El Salvadorian Schools

Rudolf D’Silva

Since El Salvador’s civil war in the 1980s, El Salvador has come to be known as the deadliest country in the world, due to its high murder rates (Lakhani, par 4). Much of the violence in El Salvador is the result of gangs that have grown in strength, and have plagued all levels of social life within the country. According to Nina Strochlic’s article, Back to School in the World’s Murder Capital, gang violence plays a key role in El Salvador’s high dropout rates (Strochlic, par. 9). El Salvadorian dropout rates are primarily the result of two things. First, a large majority of El Salvadorian youths leave schools to join local gangs. These youths are often pressured into joining gangs, due to the social support, security, and respect which comes from being part of a gang in El Salvador. The gang culture in El Salvador leaves many youths with the feeling that pursuing an education is pointless, because serving as a member of a gangs provides them with a sense of purpose within their community. Second, many students who are not in gangs also avoid going to school, due to the dangers associated with being a student within gang infested schools. In 2015 it was reported that roughly 300 children were killed while walking to school in El Salvador as a result of gang violence (S 14). This figure does not include deaths which may have resulted within the schools themselves.

In a sense schools in El Salvador have evolved into a space for gangs to congregate, and exercise their authority. Strochlic explains how teachers in the El Salvadorian school districts have risky jobs. It is not uncommon for teachers to become victims of violence for giving a student a bad grade, or attempting to discipline a student for misbehaving (S 23). One of the major challenges El Salvadorian teachers face is that a vast majority of students have family members who are part of gangs (S 15). These family members often encourage delinquent behavior such as pressuring other students to join their gang, or extorting money from their peers (S 23).

The influence gang violence has on the education system within El Salvador is significant. Teachers face a seemingly impossible task to teach children who often do not care for their education, due to their involvement in gangs. Conversely, teachers also struggle with educating students who fear for their wellbeing within schools, distracting them from focusing on their education. The rampant gang violence in El Salvador has led to thousands fleeing the country in hopes of providing themselves, and their families a better education, and essentially a better life (S 4).

References

Lakhani, Nina. “From Civil War to Gang War: New Violence Drives Salvadorans to Makeshift Camp.” The Guardian. The Guardian News and Media Limited, 30 Sept. 2016. Web. 01 Oct. 2016. < https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/sep/30/el-salvador-gang-violence-displaced-refugees-camp >

Strochlic, Nina. “Back to School in the World’s Murder Capital.” The Daily Beast. N.p., 23 Sept. 2016. Web. 01 Oct. 2016. < http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/09/23/back-to-school-in-the-world-s-murder-capital.html >

The El Salvador government increased police presence in response to gang violence [Photograph]. (2015, August 3). Aljazeera, El Salvador In M. Chandler (Author). http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2015/08/murders-soar-el-salvador-gangs-talk-truce-150802075715682.html

Of pebbles and politics: Impressionable young minds in an escalating situation

Vaibhav Karajgikar

Following up on the conditions in Kashmir, there seems to be a reckless drive by authorities in both the Indian and Pakistani camps to engage in measures that put the most vulnerable sections of the population in the middle of a situation spiraling out of control and veering dangerously close to an all-out war between the two nuclear capable nations. The Indian Army claimed to carrying out surgical strikes across the border to locate and destroy terrorist camps (The New York Times; September 29,2016) that may have been planning to carry out further attacks like the one on the Indian Army camp at Uri which resulted in the death of 18  Indian soldiers on September 18,2016 (CNN.com; September 19,2016).

The fallout in terms of impact on education in the region is alarming to say the least. Families are being evacuated under the threat of violent confrontations (Rising Kashmir; September 30,2016).Students are being forced to relocate to areas with functioning schools. To add to the trouble, the capacity of such schools remains limited to enroll displaced students half way through the academic year (NDTV.com; September 24,2016). A letter to the editor (Rising Kashmir; September 30,2016) outlines the many issues faced by students in terms of the uncertainty and poor conditions to prepare for important examinations, the results of which dictate the future enrollment of students to a large extent. The State government’s outrageous directives to continue with conducting such examinations reflects on the ineptitude to understand the psychological damage and fear inflicted on children living in high pressure war-like conditions (Rising Kashmir; September 26,2016). It seems then that students are between a rock and a hard place, risking personal safety to follow through with examinations or losing out on an academic year, perhaps even more.  The very fact that government policies are forcing students to choose between such dire alternatives shows the willingness to forfeit the future of a generation as collateral damage.

From the other side of the border, Pakistani authorities are encouraging their youth to engage with Kashmiri youth on digital platforms and create an environment that encourages Kashmiri youth to partake in further protests and incite violence in a region that is dangerously unstable (Pakistan Observer; October 1, 2016). Such overt aggression that aims to involve the youth as a dispensable tool  to further political propaganda is a matter of grievous concern. With high unemployment and lack of access to education, such conditioning would only lead to violent clashes and the death of many young people in the cross fire between narrow ideologies that aim to keep the cycle of hatred going.

How do we save an entire generation from wasting away? The first answer that comes to mind seems to be the last concern for authorities.

References:

  • Ellen Barry, Salman Sood, “India claims ‘surgical strikes’ across Line of Control in Kashmir”; The New York Times, September 29,2016; Retrieved October 1, 2016

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/30/world/asia/kashmir-india-pakistan.html?_r=0

  • Mukhtar Ahmad, Rich Phillips and Joshua Berlinger, “Soldiers killed in army base attack in Indian-administered Kashmir”; CNN.com, September 19,2016; Retrieved on October 1, 2016

http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/18/asia/india-kashmir-attack/

  • “IndoPakTension: Thousands evacuated within six miles of de facto border”; Rising Kashmir, September 30,2016; Retrieved on October 1, 2016

http://www.risingkashmir.com/news/indopaktension-thousands-evacuated-within-six-miles-of-de-facto-border

  • Sheikh Zaffar Iqbal, “As Schools Remain Closed In Kashmir, Students Are Forced To Relocate”; NDTV.com, September 24,2016; Retrieved on October 1, 2016

http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/as-schools-remains-closed-in-kashmir-students-are-forced-to-relocate-1465781

  • Hamaad Habibullah’s Letter to Editor, “Students under pressure”; Rising Kashmir, September 30,2016; Retrieved on October 1, 2016

http://www.risingkashmir.com/news/students-under-pressure-

  • Suhail Mehraj’s Letter to Editor, “Suffering Education”; Rising Kashmir, September 26,2016; Retrieved on October 1, 2016

http://www.risingkashmir.com/news/suffering-education-

  • Webmaster, “Youth asked to establish digital connection with Kashmiris in IOK”; Pakistan Observer, October 1, 2016; Retrieved on October 1, 2016

http://pakobserver.net/youth-asked-to-establish-digital-connection-with-kashmiris-in-iok/