West News Wire: Two years ago, Eliana Caman and her two children boarded a bus from Venezuela to Peru knowing the trip would be difficult. She did not anticipate dealing with less obvious challenges on her journey to a better life.
She told news reporters that “my children lost a year of their education because the school in Peru wouldn’t accept them.”
She lacked the documentation that the administrators required to verify her Venezuelan educational background. A private school offered to assist her by providing an identification code, but the cost per child would be 600 soles ($157), which their family could not afford. Unfazed, she made a list of every public school in Lima and called each one individually.
Venezuelans are not accepted here. They would respond to me by saying that. So I was worn out,” Caman said. “During the pandemic, the kids stayed at home, bored and doing nothing. We were immigrants, as I said, and had nothing.
Amid an enormous wave of migration across Latin America, aid agencies are sounding the alarm about the barriers that persist for migrant children to access something that should be universally guaranteed: an education.
In Peru, a recent study conducted for Save the Children found that one in four Venezuelan migrant children in Lima and La Libertad, the most populous parts of Peru, were not enrolled in school. In Colombia, research by a Bogota think-tank found that adolescents whose status was “irregular” were being turned away from school.
“We have a serious problem of access,” Nelly Claux, the director of the impact and quality programme at Save the Children Peru.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made things much worse. Latin America and the Caribbean were hit hardest by school closures during the global shutdown, with 60 percent of children who lost an entire year of schooling during the pandemic living in this region, according to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF.
In Peru, schools were closed for two full years, and not everyone could join online learning because of the lack of internet access. Peru’s economy also took such a beating that some 300,000 more children moved from private schools to public schools, creating a dearth of student spaces, Claux said.
“Many families say there aren’t spots, and it’s because the director says that there isn’t any, and often that is because of discrimination,” she said. “They are Venezuelans, and we really should be helping Peruvians, they say so they discriminate against them, and they exclude them.”
The survey conducted for Save the Children found that some 27 percent of migrant children were not in school, with reasons ranging from a lack of required documentation to missing proof of their education level in Venezuela, to arriving after the registration date. Nearly 10 percent said they faced discrimination by a school director at the time of enrolment. The findings were based on more than 800 surveys of families in Lima and La Libertad.
The Peruvian government has made efforts to address the issue by creating more opportunities to enroll and relaxing the rules around the documentation required, such as the certificates proving children’s grade levels. “And yet, there are cases still being reported in which these certificates are required due to the lack of knowledge about this regulation by personnel involved in the enrolment process,” the report noted.