Tag Archives: poverty

Educational Struggles in Latin America

Educational Struggles in Latin America

By Camila Ayala, age 17, Georgia

“I spent much of my childhood in Honduras, where I was able to observe firsthand the disregard for children’s education. Children without the means to pay for tuition were not assured of a quality education. Later, I was fortunate enough to move to the United States. Nevertheless, when a family member who works as a teacher in Honduras begged my family for school supplies for the children she teaches, I was moved to revisit this harrowing subject. She mentioned the number of children who don’t even have notebooks or pencils. These children also had difficulty traveling to school, and once they were there, they were not provided with the necessary amenities, such as air conditioning in the classrooms to deal with Honduran intense heat. I was astounded at how little thought was given to obtaining the right materials for these young students, and how the teachers were forced to seek assistance because they were not receiving any. My awareness of the severity of the issue has increased as a result of these first-hand encounters, which is why I feel compelled to discuss it and perhaps help others see how serious it is.”

In America, the majority of children eagerly await their summer break. They look forward to living in June and July, when there are no obligations related to school. These children enjoy those months as they are unaware of the privileges of the months that come before June and July. These formative months are filled with possibilities for education.

In contrast, according to Latin America Resource & Training Center (2023), only about 46.8% of children in Latin America are thought to have completed their high school education, compared to 86.7% in the United States. Moreover, approximately 50% of Mexicans, Colombians and Brazilians do not have the skills necessary to solve simple math equations or to explain basic scientific phenomena. They are not granted the same benefits as the children who look forward to summer vacation, the same children who possess something so precious that appears to be a burden to them: an education. Due to their poverty and the lack of government support for these issues, these kids are unable to receive the fundamental right to an education. Additionally, for those that do, the challenges of poverty resurface, forcing them to drop out of school and find employment abruptly in an attempt to support their afflicted family.

The ability to receive a quality education creates a clear divide between the rich and the poor in Latin America. Identity, background, and ability determine educational opportunities for many of these children. According to the Global Education Monitoring Report, “In Panama, 21% of indigenous males aged 20 to 24 had completed secondary school, compared with 61% of their non-indigenous peers, in 2016. In Paraguay and Honduras, 32% of indigenous people are illiterate. Afro-descendants were 14% less likely in Peru and 24% less likely in Uruguay than non-Afro-descendants to complete secondary education in 2015. On average, 12-to 17-year-olds with disabilities were 10 percentage points less likely to attend school than those without disabilities.” These unfortunate children on the other side of the border struggle with discrimination in their education, which leads them to not qualify for prosperous jobs in the future. In a report published by the World Bank it was determined that the completion rates of lower-secondary school are lower for boys than for girls in most Latin American and Caribbean countries. All these factors contribute to children remaining in poverty, unable to access proper education, and subsequently as adults, they bring up children who also face similar struggles, thus continuing the cycle of poverty. Additionally, the World Bank in Latin America and the Caribbean (2023) states that Latin America was the area most severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused many school closures.

It is still challenging to offer these students the education they need and return to normalcy following COVID as a result of the lack of resources in most Latin American countries. Even the kids who are lucky enough to attend school frequently struggle to get enough supplies. In several countries, buying school supplies is not a yearly ritual, and many children are lucky to own a book-bag at all. For these kids, going to school is a hardship in every way, including getting the materials they need for the entire school day.

Finding qualified educators to instruct these receptive minds also becomes difficult, particularly in underprivileged areas where a large proportion of the people lack the necessary skills. Furthermore, children’s transit to the schools is often troublesome due to the rural seclusion in some areas. A report by UNESCO highlighted that “while nearly all children living in urban areas eventually enter the education system, the problem of lack of access to primary education is much greater for those living in the more impoverished rural areas.” Families often find themselves contributing to the truancy of the children, as the students oftentimes forgo attending school altogether due to the family’s inability or stagnation in their efforts. I have seen first hand that often the rural communities are less developed and therefore more impoverished. By giving more focus and resources to something that’s so important, many of these problems could possibly be mitigated over time. These children are their most valuable resource, yet they aren’t receiving the education needed to succeed in life and improve the communities in which they live.

Much of this could be improved by making efforts to fund school infrastructures and guarantee an equitable resource distribution. Everyone should be able to learn, regardless of their financial situation, so more efforts should be made to support children from low-income families and to provide them with high-quality education and whatever flexibility they may require. In order to help these children as well as themselves, the governments of Latin America should take a more serious approach to the problem of inadequate education. After all, as more people receive adequate education, more prosperity will be brought to these nations.

The education of these young people deserves international investments, and even though we reside far from them, we can still contribute by supporting educational initiatives financially and in other ways. Individuals possessing financial resources and power ought to think about investing in something truly worthwhile. Even though going to school can be stressful, knowledge and growth serve as the cornerstone for all future endeavors, and when these things are denied to you, your life’s foundation begins to splinter. We ought to remain strongly committed to education for all because it’s not always a given and those who understand its value should do their part to assist the unlucky ones around the world who lack it.

By Camila Ayala, age 17, Georgia. Having migrated from Honduras as a child, Camila is fluent in Spanish and English. She values family time and her education. Discovering a passion for writing, she dreams of becoming a lawyer to help those in need. Her future is guided by a desire to advocate for justice and compassion.


A $15 Minimum Wage for all Working Americans

By Amelia Christensen, 16, Minnesota.

Raising the federal minimum could will save millions of Americans from financial burden and stress!

As a working high school student, I get paid $11 an hour, which is $3.75 above the minimum wage in America (currently at $7.25 per hour). My paycheck for two weeks covers a few meals at a fast-food restaurant, one small grocery bill, and maybe a few miscellaneous items. Now imagine a single mom living on a $7.25 per hour wage with kids, a mortgage, grocery bills, and student debt to pay. To put this in perspective, she would need to work 139 hours a week to meet her expenses. This would translate into working almost 20 hours a day, seven days a week!

A $7.25 hourly wage would mean earning about $15,080 per year. This pay is extremely low, leaving an individual living barely above the poverty line, surviving paycheck to paycheck. A full-time worker living on federal minimum wage would even qualify for food stamps. It’s extremely hard to comprehend how an individual can live on this paycheck, but imagine a whole family living on a yearly salary of $15,080. Quality of life goes down, mental health issues increase and basic needs aren’t met.

Money and financial problems play a huge factor in increased suicide rates. The American Journal of Epidemiology found that financial stressors like unemployment and low income might make someone 20 times more likely to attempt suicide.

Fortunately, there is a solution to the problem. According to a 2020 study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, raising the minimum wage by even one dollar an hour would cause suicide rates to drop. As shown in these statistics, people living in poverty don’t just struggle financially, but also have mental health issues. Many low-income workers are struggling to make ends meet, provoking them to have extreme stress, anxiety disorders, depression, or other mental illnesses. Raising the minimum wage could not only help the quality of life for many struggling Americans but it could also save thousands of lives.

Raising the federal minimum is a long process and doesn’t just happen overnight. Biden has proposed to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. If his plan is successful, he would pull 900,000 people out of poverty, increase pay for 17 million workers, and help narrow the chronic economic gap between white Americans and Black and Hispanic Americans. The minimum wage has been stagnant at $7.25 an hour since 2009, but with the Raise the Wage Act the federal minimum wage would go to $9.50 an hour in June. Then it would continue to rise until it hits $15 in June of 2025. The Liberal Economic Policy estimates that 31 percent of African Americans and 26 percent of Latinos would receive a raise if the minimum wage was increased, which would play a crucial role in reducing racial economic disparities.

Some concerns about raising the federal minimum wage are: it would take a toll on the economy and take away millions of jobs, as employers are required to pay their employees more. Two economists from Princeton University, Card and Krueger surveyed 410 fast-food restaurants and found that with higher minimum wage, job openings increased rather than decreased. Professor Arindrajit Dube of Univ. of Massachusetts at Amherst, a leading minimum wage researcher, points out that companies would benefit from a wage increase because employees would be less likely to quit, which would save time, money, and resources.

Raising the minimum wage will not completely solve all financial problems for an American living on federal minimum wage, but it will provide some financial freedom. If we start to raise the minimum wage gradually, even by a dollar an hour, it would relieve financial stress and anxiety, and even save lives for struggling individuals living paycheck to paycheck.