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).


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. < >

Strochlic, Nina. “Back to School in the World’s Murder Capital.” The Daily Beast. N.p., 23 Sept. 2016. Web. 01 Oct. 2016. < >

The El Salvador government increased police presence in response to gang violence [Photograph]. (2015, August 3). Aljazeera, El Salvador In M. Chandler (Author).


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