In Venezuela, large investments were made in the early 2000s in education, which led to an increase in the proportion of children attending school. However, the recent crisis in the country has led to a severe setback where many children no longer have any schooling at all.
Formally, there is a compulsory schooling for ten years, of which one year in preschool. The children start regular school at the age of six. The compulsory school is divided into low, middle and high schools of three years each. To obtain a bachelor’s degree requires an additional two or three years of study.
Under President Hugo Chávez, much was done within the framework of so-called missionaries, to attract poor and unaccustomed Venezuelans to the school bench (see Modern History and Social Conditions). The military was dispatched to restore school buildings, and thousands of schools were started where children received free food and medical care. The proportion of pupils participating in teaching increased at all levels.
- COUNTRYAAH: Country facts of Venezuela, including geography profile, population statistics, and business data.
In a short time, the efforts that were made went nothing. The economic, political and social crisis that Venezuela is suffering (see Current Policy) is also hitting hard on the school system. More and more schools are forced to close, for days, weeks or indefinitely. The reason may be that the electricity or water is switched off. Teachers often fail – because they are busy queuing up to buy food, or because they are not getting any pay. According to estimates in 2016, students missed an average of 40 percent of their schooling and in the same year, 30 percent of school-age children reported suffering from malnutrition. The situation has not improved since then. Many children do not go to school at all anymore. Among those who do, some have problems with learning due to hunger.
Children from poor families also often could not previously afford to complete compulsory education, even though education is free of charge at all levels. Parents may pay for school uniforms and books. Two shifts a day is the norm in state schools. Everyone has school uniforms.
The educational efforts made under Chávez have also received criticism from teachers, parents and oppositionists who believe that students are indoctrinated with leftist political views. According to the law, teaching must be based on the ideal of freedom hero Simón Bolívar, for example Latin American unity and national self-determination (see Older history). Cooperation with socialist Cuba to increase literacy has also been criticized for being too politically colored.
There are both state and private universities. The State Universidad Central de Venezuela, with its main campus in Caracas, was founded as early as 1721 and is one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. The university system has long had a reputation for being among the better in Latin America, but the crisis is also hitting hard here: students are missing out, people are canceled, academics are fleeing the country.
- Educationvv: Provides school and education information in Venezuela, covering middle school, high school and college education.
FACTS – EDUCATION
Proportion of children starting primary school
84.0 percent (2017)
Number of pupils per teacher in primary school
Reading and writing skills
97.1 percent (2016)
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP
20.7 percent (2009)
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget
20.7 percent (2009)
HD close of newly elected MPs
Four newly elected MPs, from the state of Amazonas, will not be allowed to take office when the parliament is convened after the New Year. Three of them belong to the opposition alliance MUD and one government party PSUV. The suspension means that the opposition will lose its super majority. The opposition talks about a “legal bargain”. A member of the PSUV is also suspended. An additional six members whose status is also being questioned will be given the go-ahead.
HD judges approved in extra session
Since President Cabello called for an extraordinary meeting at the last ordinary meeting of the outgoing National Assembly on December 15, the members of the new Supreme Court approve the case. This applies to 13 regular judges and 21 deputies who are replaced since their representatives resigned one year in advance. The opposition is raging and calling the act unconstitutional. The government also appointed 16 judges at the end of 2014 and can thus count on great loyalty to the socialist party in the court, which will have decisive influence if there is a power struggle between the executive (the president and the government) and the legislative (the national assembly).
Big victory for the opposition in the parliamentary elections
Preliminary results indicate a convincing victory for the opposition and Maduro acknowledges the defeat. When the result is clear, the Election Authority announces that MUD will receive 112 seats and thus a two-thirds majority. The largest party in the MUD is Justice First (PJ) with 33 seats followed by Democratic Action (AD) with 25. PSUV gets 52 seats and two of its allies remaining 3 seats. The voting figures are 56 percent for MUD and 41 percent for PSUV. With a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, the opposition is given the opportunity, among other things, to convene a constituent assembly to rewrite the Constitution, appoint the head of the electoral authority and appoint judges in the Supreme Court. It may also be relevant to call for a referendum to dismiss Maduro prematurely.
The appeal to allow election observers
In an open letter, more than 150 foreign congressmen also urge Maduro to let observers from the EU and the OAS monitor the elections in December, and to release imprisoned opposition leaders. The members of the legislative assemblies in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru and the United States are behind the letter.
Sharp criticism from OAS
The head of the regional organization, Luis Almagro, criticizes Venezuela’s electoral system in an 18-page letter: he points out how the electoral district has been redrawn, state funds are used to support the party’s candidates, access to the media is limited to the opposition, and how opposition politicians have been imprisoned or prevented from standing. The criticism has been heard before but is now unusually sharp. Almagro appeals to the Venezuelan government to allow OAS observers.
Prosecutors call López a political prisoner
The prosecutor in the case against Leopoldo López, Franklin Nieves, leaves the country and apologizes in a video recording for his role in what he now calls a political trial. According to Nieves, the charges against López were false; there was no evidence at all that he should have called for violence (see September 2015).
Opposition politicians are arrested
Former presidential candidate Manuel Rosales is arrested when he returns to Venezuela after six years of self-elected escape (see November 2008). Rosales, who says he wants to take part in the parliamentary elections, is accused of corruption during his time as governor of Zulia 2000-2008.
Relations with Guyana are normalized
Maduro meets Guyanese President Granger with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and they agree to resume diplomatic relations (see July 2015).
Neighboring presidents agree to open the border
Maduro meets his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos in Ecuador and the two agree to gradually open the border, one month after the first closure. In a second step earlier in September, a section of the state of Zulia, south of Táchira, has also been closed. Maduro then stated that an additional 3,000 soldiers would be sent to the area, where there were already around 5,000 soldiers.
Opposition leader López is sentenced to prison
Leopoldo López is sentenced to 13 years and 9 months in prison for incitement to violence (see February 2014). Trouble breaks out outside the courthouse, between his supporters and the faithful. According to his defense, the trial was characterized by irregularities, among other things, the judge must have heard 138 of the prosecutor’s witnesses but only one of the 50 witnesses and evidence presented by the defense. López’s family says he has been in solitary confinement for most of the 19 months he has been detained. The judgment against López is set by the Supreme Court in February 2017.
Daniel Ceballos is moved to house arrest
Daniel Ceballos is being moved from prison to house arrest, according to the judge for health reasons (see March 2014 and May and June 2015).
Border closure causes dispute with Colombia
Venezuela closes a section of the border with Colombia with reference to a quarrel where smugglers must have injured three army officers and one civilian. Maduro announces emergency permits in five municipalities in the state of Táchira and sends 1,500 extra soldiers to guard at the border. The background is the extensive smuggling of mainly oil and food (see also August 2014). Maduro says the authorities must act against smugglers and “paramilitary right groups” in the area. According to the president, the border will remain closed until Colombia bans the sale of goods smuggled from Venezuela, and prevents currency exchangers in the border town of Cúcuta from “attacking” the Venezuelan currency. Several thousands of Colombians are expelled, which leads Colombia to call its ambassador. Venezuela soon calls home its ambassador from Colombia.
The ambassador to Guyana is recalled
Maduro recalls Venezuela’s ambassador to Guyana for consultations. The President has accused the neighboring country of provoking support from the United States. He has also demanded that Guyana put an end to the oil drilling that Exxon Mobil devotes to (see May 2015). An international court ruled in 1899 that the area belonged to Guyana, which was then a British colony. Colombia has made a protest because Maduro, in its decree in May, also claimed disputed waters in the west.
The Government Party holds primary elections
PSUV holds primary elections ahead of the December elections, in all 87 districts.
Opposition leaders break hunger strike
Opposition leader Leopoldo López announces that he will suspend his hunger strike, after a month. He has lost 15 pounds in a month. Daniel Ceballos is reported to have ended the hunger strike after 20 days. Several other opposition leaders are also reported to have launched hunger strikes.
Elections are announced at the last moment
The National Electoral Council (CNE) announces that the election to the National Assembly will be held on December 6. The election is declared a record center in relation to when it is to be held, something that the opposition has been very critical of. The election must be held by December at the latest and should actually be announced at least six months in advance, which was now missed by a couple of weeks. Prior to the election, CNE has updated electoral lengths and changed electoral districts – according to critics to strengthen PSUV’s chances. Four out of five members of CNE’s board are open government supporters. The electoral district changed similarly to the 2010 elections, when the opposition alliance MUD received 52 percent of the vote but only 40 percent of the mandate.
Spanish ex-head of government causes the government to collapse
Former Spanish Prime Minister Social Democrat Felipe González is denied a visit to Leopoldo López during a visit to Venezuela. However, he meets MUD representatives as well as the well-known Venezuelan journalist Teodoro Petkoff who received a Spanish journalist award. Petkoff has been denied leave to go to Spain and receive it himself. The criticism of González from government and state media is merciless; he is called a “fascist drug dealer” and is said to be sheltered in his home country. González leaves the country earlier than planned, aboard a Colombian military plane sent by Colombia’s President Santos. That too causes Maduro to rage, and Colombia’s ambassador is called in to give an explanation.
Oil finds lead to changed boundary drawing
Since the oil company Exxon Mobil reported that it found oil in the sea extend President Maduro through a decree Venezuela’s territorial waters in the East. In doing so, the country formally claims a long-disputed sea area. Guyana President David Granger accuses Venezuela of violating international law (see Foreign Policy and Defense).
Foreign ex-presidents are refused to meet opposition leaders
Two Latin American former presidents, Andrés Pastrana of Colombia and Jorge Quiroga of Bolivia, visit and request to visit opposition leaders Leopoldo López and Daniel Ceballos in prison, but are denied by authorities saying they are participating in a “hostile campaign” against the state. Pastrana, together with Chile’s ex-president Sebastián Piñera, tried to meet López in January, too, when he was rejected.
Opposition leaders hunger strikes
Both opposition leaders Leopoldo López and Daniel Ceballos launch a hunger strike in prison, demanding the release of political prisoners. In a smuggled video recording, López demands that the government lift the censorship and set the date for the parliamentary elections.
Primary elections in the opposition alliance
The opposition alliance MUD holds primary elections ahead of the parliamentary elections to be held later in the year. The chaotic situation in the country means that the opposition has strong hopes of making a good choice. However, the MUD suffers from great fragmentation and is considered by many to be dominated by an elite with poor popular roots. Daniel Ceballos is voted as a candidate despite being in prison (see March 2014).
Inflation entails raising the minimum wage
President Maduro announces that the minimum wage will be increased by 30 percent in two steps until July, which means a real reduction in wages given the high inflation. Capriles has claimed that anonymous sources in the central bank state that inflation during the first four months of the year corresponds to 200 percent on an annual basis. The central bank has not published any figures since December, when inflation was at 68.5 percent on an annual basis.
Short working hours should save electricity
The working hours for public employees should be reduced to 5.5 hours a day, to keep the costs of air conditioning down. Extreme heat makes energy demand unusually high, according to the government. Private companies are asked to use their own generators to reduce the pressure on the national grid. Media reports on power outages across the country.
Maduro gets extended powers of power
President Maduro demands the right to rule directly, without Parliament’s intervention, because of what he says is a threat from the United States. The National Assembly gives Maduro the right to govern by decree year-round. He says that he thereby has the power to “defend peace and sovereignty”.
Venezuela is promised regional aid
The foreign ministers from all twelve countries in Unasur visit Caracas and promise help with food, medicine and other shortages.
The United States is called upon to recall the majority of diplomats
The United States gets two weeks to call home most of its diplomats in Venezuela. According to Foreign Secretary Delcy Rodríguez, the number of US diplomats should amount to 17, the same number as Venezuela has in Washington, which means that some 80 Americans must return home.
Caracas mayor is arrested
Camouflage-clad police break into the mayor’s office in Caracas and remove Mayor Antonio Ledezma. Maduro says that Ledezma must be responsible for all crimes against “the country’s peace and security”. Hundreds of people gather at the intelligence headquarters and demand that he be released. After a couple of days, Ledezma is charged with conspiracy and it is decided that he will be held in military prison until the trial. Of the 76 mayors in Venezuela who belong to the opposition, 33 have now been prosecuted.
Couplings are reportedly revealed
The government again states that a coup attempt has been averted. Eleven soldiers are designated as responsible, including a former Air Force General. Several of them must have been seized and weapons seized. A businessman and two leading opposition politicians are also identified. The politicians are Jorge Borges, national coordinator for Caprile’s Justice Party first, and Caraca’s mayor Antonio Ledezma.
A new exchange rate system is introduced
The new system is said to lead to the devaluation of the currency by 69 percent. Prices in public transport have just increased by 40 percent.
Shop owners arrested for “conspiracy”
The president states that owners of four store chains have been arrested since they deliberately created long queues and “annoyed the Venezuelan people”. According to Maduro, many businessmen are part of a conspiracy with the opposition to overthrow the government.
The President is accused of cracking down
President Diosdado Cabello is singled out in the conservative Spanish newspaper ABC for conspiring with a narcotic with military links. The accusations have been made even before. Cabello says he intends to take legal action against ABC as well as the Venezuelan newspapers El Nacional and Tal Cual for rendering the charges.
Venezuela in the UN Security Council
From the turn of the year, Venezuela has one of the temporary places of two years in the Security Council, after being elected without competition to a place of importance for Latin America and the Caribbean. The United States blocked Venezuela’s candidacy for a seat in 2006, but this time is believed to have been one of ten countries that cast their votes in the vote. Rafael Ramírez at the same time leaves the post of Foreign Minister and becomes a new UN ambassador. New Foreign Minister becomes Delcy Rodríguez.