Educational Challenges in Croatia

Written by Riccardo Armeni

Croatia is a Southeastern-European country that is part of the Balkan region. It declared its independence from the war-torn and now-dissolved SFRY (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) in 1991, beginning decades of rebirth. The Republic of Croatia borders Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro, whereas the Adriatic Sea covers its whole western side. From an etymological perspective, the country derives its name from an ancient version of Slavic and roughly translates to ‘guardian’ or “one who guards” (Matasović, 2019). As previously mentioned, after the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the formation of several sovereign states, Croatia has begun a period of renaissance that is still going on to this day, primarily focused on promoting tourism, with the industrial and agricultural sectors largely contributing to the national economy.

This economic resurgence, however, does not go hand-in-hand with other aspects of societal development. Although the sparkling docks of Dubrovnik, known as “Venice-on-the-sea”, or the festive and colourful islands of Hvar and Pag may fascinate people, they may also blind them from the evident challenges that Croatia hides in its educational system. Unsuccessful policy developments, the worrying state-of-affairs of some regions and the inevitable effects of Covid-19 concocted a lethal cocktail that left the institutional context for education in subpar conditions.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash.


Croatia has developed an initiative called the National Plan for the Development of Education and Training that has been implemented in the past years and it is supposed to last until 2027. It is a comprehensive approach to the challenge-riddled education system present in the country, where 10 goals have been set and actions have been taken in order to satisfy said goals (European Commission, 2023). The majority of these revolve around all-access to early levels of education like preschool and primary ones, with improvements in efficiency, effectiveness and overall process quality. Others are concerned with themes of inclusivity and fairness, with the aim of fostering comprehensive environments as a way to ameliorate the current state of inequalities.

Special children are also taken into consideration, both ones with disabilities and those with special talents, where the government has promised to create a platform that tailors the support to their needs and their talents. Lastly, the final goals target Croatian students that live abroad, with the intention of aligning their professional opportunities with the national curriculum, as well as the implementation of ICTs throughout the entire educational hierarchy in order to advance the current level of digital literacy and augment the quality of the processes by utilizing technology. The general idea is that resource allocation, strategic planning and most importantly collaboration among stakeholders are the fundamental pillars on which this national plan is based on: as a consequence, implementation remains the real issue (European Commission, 2023).


Slavonia is a historical region that extends towards the north-eastern part of the country; once a prosperous and fertile region, it was devasted during the war and has struggled to recover since then. Regrettably, Croatia’s public administration has shown negligence towards the region in terms of economic support: out of the all FDI (foreign direct investment) allocated for the whole Republic of Croatia within the past decade, only a meagre 2% was spent for Slavonia (Brajkovic & Ambasz, 2023). The most concerning aspect of this failed improvement is the disastrous conditions in which the education system was left. What’s even more alarming is the combination of inexistent skillsets and low levels of education displayed by the individuals present in the local workforce; this negative overview is amplified by a number of dispositional factors, such as the elevated emigration of youngsters and skilled workers registered in the region (Brajkovic & Ambasz, 2023).

As previously outlined, the area’s fertility is the primary source of income for the region, with the agri-food industry accounting for almost one third of the overall output for Slavonia; however, only 10% of farmers has received any type of formal training, which is three times lower as compared to the European Union average (Brajkovic & Ambasz, 2023). On the other side of the spectrum, more and more people are dropping out of their tertiary education studies, and consequently even less are getting enrolled at all (Brajkovic & Ambasz, 2023). The prime cause of this trend is that the institutions in the tertiary sector are not aligned with the needs of the workforce at the regional level: this is indicative of a mismatch regarding what is needed by potential students and what is offered from the educational context.


The pandemic generated by the Coronavirus has also been another factor that drastically impacted the progress of education in Croatia. A survey conducted within the first part of 2021 showed how more than half of the students that graduated secondary school within the past three years has said that the pandemic negatively influenced their mental health, including a lower interest in sports and hobbies (Europa, 2021). The most affected dimensions for learners were knowledge, skills attainment, comprehension and motivation. Other negative consequences of the pandemic can be found from the institutional side of education. It has become increasingly difficult for educators to keep students engaged during classes, especially with online learning that formally killed the knowledge spillover that stems whenever individuals are sharing the same space, such as a classroom, throughout the learning process (Europa, 2021).

Covid-19 didn’t only affect the psychological dimensions, but also physical ones, becoming tangible. As an instance, the majority of students said that wearing a mask significantly impacted on their learning experience (Europa, 2021). Moreover, those who barely managed to escape the pandemic’s heavy influence by graduating high school in the summer of 2020 (and therefore received remote learning for little over 2 months), still reported issues with transitioning out of secondary school; whether it was to venture in the labour market or to continue with higher studies, an average of 40% out of the graduating individuals claimed they were not properly prepared for the future (Europa, 2021). Ultimately, there is a huge need of platforms or special programs that accompany teenager learners in their psychological and social needs.

Photo by Compare Fibre on Unsplash.


To conclude, Croatia has been making strides in their efforts regarding improving education, although it is clear that the country is still a long way from achieving a comprehensive network of quality education and overall processes. The National Plan for the Development of Education and Training that was set in motion in recent years is bringing about good adjustments, but collaboration is required from all involved parties in order to smoothen the implementation of said program.

The first step towards obtaining this outcome would be a holistic approach, where the various relevant institutions are coordinated in the implementation of initiatives and programs, with a continuous monitoring in order to identify and correct mistakes. Furthermore, there should be more emphasis placed on the attainment of micro-qualifications, with the support of financing programmes sponsored by state institutions – and a special focus on digital as well as green skills (European Commission, 2023).

Secondly, a bigger interest for the region of Slavonia: the establishment of a regional committee in charge of keeping stakeholders connected and facilitating the coordination of activities at all administrative levels is advised. That area is ripe with possibilities, and with just a little effort from the involved institutions it can aim to become a primary weapon for the economy of Croatia, along with a resurgence of education levels as well as enrolment and graduation targets in the region.

Lastly, the development of platforms that promote social well-being, with a major emphasis on psychological implications that resulted from COVID-19, could be helpful. In addition, remote learning needs some refinement, with increased participation from all the involved stakeholders and support for prolonged use of content, as well as the proposition of new possibilities for blended learning (Europa, 2021).


BalkanInsight. (2017). Croatia Teachers Protest Over Stalled Education Reforms. Retrieved from:

rajkovic, L., & Ambasz, D. (2023). Analyzing education outcomes and skills mismatch in Croatia’s lagging Slavonia region. Retrieved from:

Eurydice. (2023). Ongoing reforms and policy developments. Retrieved from:

Matasović, R. (2019). Ime Hrvata. Croatian Philological Society. Retrieved from:

ReferNet Croatia; Cedefop (2021). Croatia: survey confrims impact of COVID-19 pandemic on education. National news on VET. Retrieved from:

Educational challenges in Panama

Written by Francisca Rosales

Panama is a country in Central America with a population of approximately 4.2 million people in 2020 (Puertas et al. 2023). Panama has a Human Development Index of 0.815 due to widespread socioeconomic inequality, especially among the country’s indigenous population (ibid.).

The Panamanian education system is divided into different stages: preschool; primary school; pre-secondary school and secondary school. Education is free until middle school (The Oxford Business Group 2023). Despite recent progress in children’s access to education, Panama’s educational system is still facing grave challenges, especially as the quality of the country’s education continues to lag (The Oxford Business Group 2023; UNICEF 2021). There are still great disparities in dropout rates between rural and urban areas, and the number and professional qualification of teachers remains unsatisfactory (The Oxford Business Group 2023). The state budget for education continues to be disappointing (Herrera et al. 2018). In 2020, the Panamanian government only invested 3.9 percent of its GDP in education (Trading Economics 2023). Currently 17.2% of children aged between 15 and 24 are not enrolled in education or employment, entailing that many adolescents lack access to education and to the necessary skills to find an employment (Unicef 2020).

This report highlights educational challenges that Panama is facing at the moment; namely, the lack of quality education and infrastructure, and inequalities in access to education that affect especially rural and indigenous communities. The report concludes with recommendations to improve the Panamanian educational system.

Elementary school in Boquete, Panama. Photo by Fran Hogan on Wikimedia Commons.

Quality of Education & Infrastructure

The quality of education in Panama continues to fall behind (UNESCO 2020). There are not sufficient services at schools to ensure quality education for students, especially in rural and indigenous communities (UNICEF 2021). To illustrate, approximately 30 percent of children do not have access to preschool education (UNICEF 2021). Also, educational infrastructure is deteriorating due to poor maintenance (Herrera et al. 2018). The lack of capacity to accommodate students has led to the introduction of the two-shift school day to optimize school infrastructure (The Oxford Business Group 2023). This strategy entails that one shift of students attends school during the morning, while another shift attends school in the afternoon. However, this has hampered the development of students’ basic skills. The physical infrastructure of schools in rural areas is lower than in urban schools (Unesco 2020). Rural schools face major infrastructure challenges: there is a lack of infrastructure to accommodate the local demand for school; this results in children dropping out of school or forces children to walk for long distances to access their schools. Also, compared to schools in urban centers, schools in rural areas often lack the necessary learning materials, such as textbooks and notebooks (Unesco 2020).

Moreover, the educational style remains old-fashioned, as the curriculum is still based on memorizing concepts rather than developing key competencies and developing skills important for students’ future employability (UNICEF 2021). The lack of enforcement of a bilingual curriculum and, therefore, the lack of proficiency in English has negatively affected students’ preparedness for the labor market, especially in the sector of tourism. As a response, the government implemented a Bilingual Program in 2015, to improve basic and secondary teachers’ proficiency in English (The Oxford Business Group 2023). Furthermore,  schools lack a clear approach to teaching in schools in indigenous communities, which compromises the quality of education for students with an indigenous background. In fact, many teachers teaching in schools in indigenous communities follow non-inclusive educational practices (Unesco 2020). For example, non-indigenous teachers often do not allow students to speak in indigenous languages among themselves, creating tensions in the classroom environment and the current bilingual curriculum fails to include indigenous languages (Unesco 2020). 

Inequalities in Access to Education

According to UNICEF, 3 out of 10 children are affected by multidimensional poverty in Panama (UNICEF 2022). Children living in poverty and children with an indigenous background lack access to quality services (UNICEF 2022). Although preschool education is compulsory, approximately 40 percent of children aged between 4 to 5 years do not attend preschool (UNICEF 2020). Ensuring children’s access to preschool education is essential since the level of oral language kindergarten can have a great impact on a child’s learning outcomes through primary school in reading and writing, as well as mathematics (Puertas et al. 2023). The educational system also does not reach all adolescents to the same extent: only 7 in 10 children aged between 12 and 14 years were enrolled in pre-secondary school before Covid-19, while only 5 in 10 adolescents between 15 and 17 years were enrolled in high school (UNICEF 2020). Consequently, only 35 percent of students reached the minimum proficiency levels for literacy according to the Sustainable Development Goals (UNICEF 2020). Also, 19 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls in pre-secondary schools are overaged; this fact points that unsatisfactory learning leads to school dropout, curtailing the possibility for young adults to acquire the necessary skills for future employability (UNICEF 2020). 

Inequalities greatly affect children with indigenous backgrounds, as indigenous children display lower achievement in literacy and numeracy rates. The indigenous population in Panama mostly lives in rural areas, where the supply of schools is substantially lower, compared to urban areas (Unesco 2020). To illustrate, adolescent girls from indigenous communities are more likely to be excluded from access to education and to complete secondary education and 1 in 10 children from rural areas are more likely to not be enrolled in school (UNICEF 2021; Unesco 2020).  The literacy rate for women from indigenous backgrounds between 15 and 24 years of age is 84 percent, which is lower than the national average (97 percent) (Unesco 2020). Also, schools in indigenous communities have poorer infrastructure and lower school attainment. Violence, including abandonment, or neglect, currently affects 44.5 percent of children, and indigenous girls show higher vulnerability to violence (UNICEF 2020). Children with disabilities also face exclusion in access to education as 1 in 4 children with disabilities does not attend school (UNICEF 2021).

Students’ reading performance greatly decreased after Covid especially due to inequality (Puertas et al. 2023). At the end of 2020, only 51 percent of children in primary schools and 42 percent of high school students could read proficiently (Puerta et al. 2023). A large portion of the population does not have access to internet from home or electricity. In fact, only 40 percent of households with children in public schools have internet access (Puertas et al. 2023). During the Covid lockdow, children from higher-income households could use online platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, to engage with their teachers; however, students in lower-income households often only had WhatsApp as a means of communication with their teachers. Consequently, thousands of students were at risk of dropping out of school during this period (UNICEF 2022).

Photo by Katie Chen on Unsplash.

Conclusion and Recommendations

This report highlights that the major educational challenges in Panama lie in the lack of appropriate infrastructure to ensure that students have access to quality education and social inequality that hinders students from achieving satisfactory educational outcomes. Education is an essential mechanism for development. Thus, the government of Panama must commit to expanding the current budget for education to improve schools’ physical infrastructure and quality to ensure that its population can access the necessary skills and increase its capabilities. Also, it is essential to continue investing in teachers’ capacity building to improve the quality of teaching and develop a curriculum that enables students to develop essential skills for the job market.

The government should also prioritize children from indigenous communities to close the current gap in unequal access to education. The government should invest more in schools in indigenous communities to improve learning outcomes in reading and mathematics among primary school and high school students. This is only possible through the implementation of inclusive policies that take into consideration students’ educational needs and recognize the disproportional exclusion of children with indigenous background from accessing quality education. Ensuring that students with an indigenous background have access to quality education is essential to prevent students from dropping out of school and from being further marginalized from society. 


Cubilla-Bonnetier, D., Grajales-Barrios, M., Ortega-Espinosa, A., Puertas, L. and De León Sautú, N. (2023). “Unequal literacy development and access to online education in public versus private Panamanian schools during COVID-19 pandemic”. In Frontiers in Education (Vol. 8, p. 989872). Frontiers.

Herrera M, L.C., Torres-Lista, V. and Montenegro, M. (2018). Analysis of the State Budget for Education of the Republic of Panama from 1990 to 2017. International Education Studies, 11(7), pp.71-82.

Oxford Business Group. (2023). “Panama makes progress towards sustainable education growth”.,five%2Dyear%2Dold%20children 

Trading Economics. (2023). “Panama – Public Spending on Education”.,compiled%20from%20officially%20recognized%20sources 

Unesco. (2020). “Rurality and education in Panama”. 

UNICEF. (2021). “All children learn in Palama”. 

UNICEF. (2022). “Country annual report 2022: Panama”. 

UNICEF. (2020). “Country Programme document”.

CSOs meet with the European Parliament’s 2023 Sakharov Prize Laureate and Finalists.

Discussion laureates’ ‘’Jina Mahsa Amini and the Woman, Life Freedom Movement in Iran’’ representatives and MEP Abir Al-Sahlani, led by Ringaile Razauskiene

The EP Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, initiated in 1988 to commend individuals or groups championing human rights and fundamental freedoms, was awarded to the late Iranian protest figure Jina Mahsa Amini and the Woman, Life, Freedom movement.

Jina Mahsa Amini, who tragically passed away at 22 while detained by Iran’s religious police, was honoured alongside the movement she inspired. The finalists included Vilma Núñez de Escorcia and Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos from Nicaragua, as well as advocates for abortion rights: Ms Justyna Wydrzyńska from Poland, Ms Morena Herrera from El Salvador, and Dr Colleen McNicholas from the US.

The prize ceremony occurred on Monday, the 11th, followed by a robust discussion session and panel at the European Parliament on Tuesday, the 12th. Representatives from 21 civil society organisations, including Broken Chalk, participated in the event alongside MEP Abir Al-Sahlani.

Civil society organisations meet with the European Parliament’s 2023 Sakharov Prize laureate and finalists

The discussion session and panel aimed to provide a platform for the Sakharov Prize finalists to highlight their challenges and explore potential collaborations with civil society organisations. It also facilitated increased cooperation within these organisations.

Among the finalists, 84-year-old human rights defender Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, co-founder of the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights, and Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, facing persecution for his outspoken stance on Nicaragua’s crisis, were represented in the panel. Additionally, abortion rights activist Ms Justyna Wydrzyńska, feminist Ms Morena Herrera, and obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Colleen McNicholas shared their unwavering commitment to reproductive rights.

A panel titled “Discussion with Human Rights Activists” featured Lorent Saleh, a Venezuelan human rights activist; Louise Xin, a Paris-based fashion designer; and Pegah Moshir Pour, an advocate for human and digital rights with roots in Iran and Italy. The event shed light on these activists’ diverse and impactful work in human rights.

The 2023 Sakharov Prize finalists were :

Vilma Nuñez de Escorcia is an 84-year-old human rights defender and co-founder of the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH). A former Nicaraguan Supreme Court Magistrate, she has tirelessly fought for human rights in Nicaragua for decades. Ms Sara Henríquez represented her during the panel.

Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, Bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa, has since 2018, been the victim of persecution for his sermons, in which he has reflected on the country’s crisis, state repression and the victims of human rights violations. Father Uriel Vallejos represented him.

Ms Justyna Wydrzyńska is an abortion rights activist and women’s rights defender renowned for her work supporting individuals who seek to have an abortion.

Ms. Morena Herrera is a feminist and social activist dedicated to advocating for safe and legal abortion access in her country. She is the founder of the country’s first feminist organisation and serves as the president of the Citizen’s Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion.

Dr Colleen McNicholas is a distinguished obstetrician gynaecologist known for her unwavering commitment to high-quality patient care and impactful advocacy in reproductive health.


Lorent Saleh is a Venezuelan human rights activist who has defended human rights since 2007, often facing repeated detentions by Venezuelan authorities.

Louise Xin was Born in China, raised in Sweden, and based in Paris. She is a self-taught, multi-award-winning fashion designer, creative director and the founder of  Scandinavia’s first rental-only, non-sale couture brand.

Pegah Moshir Pour is a consultant and activist for human and digital rights. Born in Iran and raised in Italy, Moshir Pour was at the forefront of social media diffusion after Mahsa Jina Amini’s death.

Unveiling educational Challenges in Honduras: From History to Pandemic

Written by: Laura Dieterle

The Republic of Honduras, situated in Central America with a population of approximately 9.7 million, operates as a constitutional democracy with a presidential governmental system, facing multifaceted challenges in its educational landscape [1].

Rooted in its colonial history, Honduras grapples with enduring political and systemic issues that significantly impact its education system. Scholars, including Edwards et al. [2], highlight the consequences of postcolonial structures, identifying the privatisation of education as a persistent challenge. This privatisation contributes to disparities in access to education, posing obstacles to achieving equal educational opportunities for all.

Moreover, Honduras remains deeply entrenched in a patriarchal societal framework, perpetuating traditional gender roles. This societal structure manifests in expectations that predominantly confine women to caregiving roles. This entrenched gender bias influences access to education, as women and girls often face discouragement from pursuing higher education or continuing their schooling beyond the basic levels [3].

The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing educational challenges, bringing to the forefront a range of issues on the country’s social agenda. Notable concerns include heightened school dropout rates across all educational levels, ineffective management within the educational system, insufficient investment in education, and pervasive educational inequalities [4].

Addressing these challenges necessitates a comprehensive and collaborative approach, involving governmental bodies, NGOs, and international partners to develop sustainable solutions. By tackling the historical legacies and systemic issues, Honduras can work towards fostering a more inclusive and equitable education system for its diverse population.


Privatisation and Globalisation

In Honduras, education privatisation faces multifaceted challenges deeply rooted in historical and structural factors. The initial formation of the Honduran State in the late 1890s was marked by significant foreign influence, particularly from the United States. Transnational companies, mainly involved in industries such as bananas and coffee, played a pivotal role in shaping the state apparatus, hindering the emergence of a strong local elite, and contributing to a dependence on foreign aid and markets, which directly influenced the way an educational system emerged [2].

This historical influence has resulted in an economy where foreign capital is utilized to benefit the political party in power, creating a system where privileges are distributed based on party loyalty. The privatisation of education in Honduras has led to an unequal distribution of educational resources, with teaching positions, school buildings, and other benefits being subject to political biases. The political class, rather than strengthening the institutional capacity of the State for public welfare, operates in alignment with the logic of personal and private benefit [2].

The concept of “State failure” in Honduras becomes complex, reflecting the State’s historical lack of capacity to function independently and financial constraints. This challenges the fulfilment of the State’s primary function of public welfare. The combination of historical factors, foreign influence, and political biases has shaped the State’s role in perpetuating a system where clientelism and dependence on foreign actors are taken for granted [2].

Recognising the historical foundations is essential for understanding the challenges posed by education privatisation in Honduras. It reveals deeper historical and structural issues influencing the education system, offering insights into potential avenues for policy change.

In this context, globalisation and capitalist dynamics play a significant role, contributing to the country’s dependence on foreign aid and markets. According to Edwards et al., the challenges in achieving an autonomous and equitable education system stem from the continued influence of historical factors, necessitating a comprehensive approach that addresses root causes rather than merely addressing surface-level issues [2].

While the political landscape in Honduras reflects a system where clientelism and political biases prevail, understanding the interplay of historical legacies, foreign influence, and political dynamics opens pathways for potential policy changes that can lead to a more equitable and autonomous education system in the future.

Patriarchal Structure and its Influence on Education

A huge issue within rural Honduras is the high occurrence of child marriages, which is rooted in visible gender inequality. This is deeply rooted in the patriarchal societal framework in which Honduras can be placed and has a great influence on adolescents [3].

In addressing the challenges faced by adolescents in rural Honduras, the importance of equipping them with life skills, particularly critical thinking, is underscored. Critical thinking is seen as essential for making informed decisions and taking actions based on a deep understanding and analysis of their surroundings. The complex task of promoting social norms reflecting gender equality and combating child marriage within an educational context can be named an educational challenge [5].

An empirical example is the HEY! Intervention, illustrating how critical thinking can be incorporated into the curriculum to tackle gender inequality and prevent child marriage. The study advocates for pedagogies that foster social analysis, change power relations, and challenge oppression, emphasising the role of critical and feminist pedagogies [5].

The implementation of a curriculum aligned with critical thinking principles involves examining assumptions and imagining alternative ways of thinking and acting. Creating a classroom community where boys and girls engage in dialogue and act as critical mirrors is pivotal to inducing cognitive dissonance and making sense of inconsistencies in beliefs, particularly those related to gender inequality.

While the study yields positive initial results, particularly in encouraging boys to challenge gender inequality and providing girls with opportunities to reimagine their roles, a rigorous impact assessment on child marriage and teen pregnancy is pending. The hope is that documenting the processes and impact of HEY! will inform the design of similar programs fostering critical thinking as a life skill for youth in diverse contexts [5]. However, the continuous existence of child marriage, as well as the general gender inequalities are a huge issue regarding education for all, since it excludes young women and girls from receiving an education.

Covid-19 and its Aftermath

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified longstanding challenges in Honduras, a country grappling with high poverty rates and existing educational crises. Mandated lockdowns in March 2020 resulted in a surge in unemployment, and health crises, and exacerbated ongoing educational issues. Even before the pandemic, Honduras faced educational shortcomings, including poor quality, teacher strikes, and inadequate resources [6]. Illiteracy rates had reached 13% by February 2020.

The public education system, already struggling, ceased to function during lockdowns, leaving enrolled children without formal education for months. Many turned to child labor, while others became vulnerable “street children” exposed to violence and exploitation. The private education system also faced obstacles, with students unable to afford technology or internet services [6].

Children’s rights, protected by Honduran law, including the right to education, family, and dignity, are increasingly at risk. The pandemic has laid bare the deep-seated issues, exposing millions of children to the perils of illiteracy, abuse, neglect, and child labour, suggesting a precarious future for their well-being in Honduras.


The challenges facing education privatisation in Honduras are deeply embedded in historical and structural factors. The historical influence of foreign entities, particularly from the United States, has shaped the state apparatus, fostering dependence on foreign aid and markets. This has led to an unequal distribution of educational resources, with political biases determining privileges. The concept of “State failure” is complex, reflecting historical limitations and financial constraints. Understanding these historical foundations is crucial for addressing education privatisation challenges and advocating for comprehensive policy changes.

Gender inequality, evident in high rates of child marriages in rural Honduras, is rooted in the patriarchal societal framework. Equipping adolescents with life skills, especially critical thinking, becomes essential. The HEY! intervention exemplifies integrating critical thinking into the curriculum to combat gender inequality and child marriage. The study advocates for pedagogies that challenge oppression, emphasising critical and feminist approaches. The classroom becomes a space for dialogue, inducing cognitive dissonance and reshaping beliefs, particularly related to gender inequality. Positive initial results indicate the potential for similar programs to foster critical thinking as a life skill for youth.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing challenges in Honduras, intensifying unemployment, health crises, and educational issues. Lockdowns left enrolled children without formal education, pushing many into child labour or vulnerable “street children” situations. The private education system faced hurdles due to technology and internet access issues. The pandemic exposed deep-seated problems, jeopardizing children’s rights to education, family, and dignity. Illiteracy, abuse, and child labour became heightened risks, suggesting a precarious future for children’s well-being in Honduras.

In conclusion, the multifaceted challenges in Honduras demand holistic approaches that address historical legacies, gender inequalities, and the devastating impact of the pandemic. A comprehensive strategy, encompassing policy changes, pedagogical shifts, and community engagement, is essential for fostering an equitable and autonomous education system that ensures the well-being of the country’s youth.

  • [2] Edwards, D. B., Moschetti, M. C., & Caravaca, A. (2023). Globalization, privatization, and the state : contemporary education reform in post-colonial contexts.
  • [6] Evans, W. (2021). Public Education in Honduras: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Exacerbated an On-going Educational Crisis  – Trauma Psychology News. Trauma Psychology.
  • [3] NGO Our Little Roses. (2021). Inequality Impacts Girls in Honduras’ Education – Our Little Roses.
  • [4] Portillo Mejía, T. M. (2022). Honduras: Educational Progress Report.
  • [5] Sorbring, E., Alampay, L. P., Russell, L., & Smahel, D. (2022). Young People and Learning Processes in School and Everyday Life Volume 5 Series Editors. 5, 215–240.
  • Student An Der Escuela De Saraguro Honduras · Kostenloses Stock-Foto. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2023, from
  • [1] Worldbank. (2022). Honduras Overview: Development news, research, data | World Bank. Worldbank.

Feature Image by Gabriel Manjarres via Pexels

World Children’s Day 2023

In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls contends that political institutions should prioritise the rights of the most vulnerable in society. World Children’s Day, first established in 1954, affirms that priority. It affirms children’s rights to engage in discourses which influence their communities. It allows parents, teachers, community leaders, and young adults to consider what they can do to improve the lives of young(er) people around them. In this way, World Children’s Day is an excellent moment for reflecting upon the state of children worldwide–and for taking action to change it. In this press release, Broken Chalk reports on human rights abuses against children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo

As of June 2023, 2,420 children had been killed, maimed, abducted and sexually violated in The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (Save The Children, 2023). These atrocities emerged from the ongoing political conflict between M23, the government, and paramilitary groups. The collapse of government infrastructure makes Congo’s population–which has a median age of 16–extremely vulnerable to abduction, induction into military groups, sexual violence, and death. The prevalence of ‘street children’, as locals call them, throughout Congo captures a central dimension of human rights violations against children in Congo.

Street Children

Rape and sexual violence are standard methods of warfare employed by Congolese paramilitary groups. The victims often face immense shame from their communities (Humanium, 2020). In many cases, these rapes result in unwanted pregnancies. To distance themselves from these traumatic events–and social shame– women will often abandon their children. As a result, these abandoned children are forced to live on the streets/forests with other orphans (Humanium, 2020). Once in these groups, they are confronted with a new social hierarchy: competition with older (sexually exploitative/exploited) children, gangs, and insurgent groups. In addition to these grave circumstances, they are often used for cheap child labour (Humanium, 2020). Children are ‘saved’ from the chaos of the streets by armed groups, where they are trained as soldiers. In turn, the children are taught to reproduce the cycle of violence and exploitation which constrained them. 

Child Soldiers

According to Relief Web (2023), “The DRC had the highest number of child abductions globally”, sometimes as young as five years old. In 2023, 730 children were kidnapped from their homes (Save The Children, 2023). Furthermore, 1,600 children have been recruited by armed groups (France24, 2023). Child soldiers are subject to a tragic nexus of sexual and physical abuse. The infamous practice of holding children as “fetish keepers” is particularly appalling. Confident children are recruited because they believe they possess magic powers (Humanium, 2020). The recruits undergo a ceremonial abdominal cut. Those who survive this trial are put on the front lines of combat due to their apparent powers (Save The Children, 2023). 

A report by the International Peace Support Training Center (IPSTC) found that over 90% of child soldiers had witnessed extreme violence and murder (IPSTC, 2013, p.8). Furthermore, approximately ⅓ of child soldiers have experienced sexual abuse, while almost 80% have been maimed (IPSTC, 2013, p.8). In the wake of these facts, the government has committed to preventing child recruitment into military forces  (United Nations, 2017). For example, in 2013, 30,000 child soldiers were freed from the armed forces (ICC, 2013, p.2). Nevertheless, re-recruitment into these forces remains a serious issue. 


The DRC has committed to securing free primary education for its citizens, allowing over 4.5 million children to attend school (U.S. Agency for International Development, n.d.). So far, it has produced a literacy rate of 80 % (89.5% males and 70.8% females) (Central Intelligence Agency, 2023). In 2015, the IRC, Global TIES for Children, and the DRC government jointly pursued four goals: (1) teacher training, (2) community mobilisation, (3) vocational training, and (4) professional development (rescue, 2015). By 2016, students’ reading, geometry, and numeracy scores had increased (New York University & International Rescue Committee, 2015). However, poverty and warfare continue to strain the DRC’s education system. 

The DRC’s commitment to free primary education eventually collapsed because of insufficient funding. The program depended on parents’ income, which could not support teachers’ salaries ( In turn, military conflict has forced millions of children to flee their homes–and schools.


On February 24th 2022, Russia started its invasion of Ukraine. Since then, over 3,000 schools have been destroyed, 7 million children have been displaced, 9,701 civilians have been killed, and 17,748 have been injured (United Nations, 2023). Russia’s relentless airstrikes and on-ground military operations constitute numerous human rights violations. According to a report published by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry in Ukraine, these violations include “unlawful attacks with explosive weapons…torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and transfers and deportations of children” (IICIU, 2023). Children in Ukraine face a unique set of human rights violations of the Convention on The Rights of The Child (CRC).


The Ukrainian constitution affirms that “everyone has the right to education” (Human et al., 2023, p.58). Ukraine further recognises education as a human right, providing that “…international humanitarian law envisages [that]:… the right of children to receive an education shall be guaranteed” (Human et al., 2023, p.58). However, Russian forces have eroded (at best) and wholly decimated (at worst) Ukraine’s educational infrastructure. 

There are reports of Russian military forces using schools as military infrastructure.  In “Tanks on The Playground”, Human Rights Watch found that the Russian troops had commandeered a school in Izium. Eventually, a fire-fight between the Russian and Ukrainian military caused a fire which burned it down. There have also been reports of Russian forces stealing supplies from and hanging swastika insignias within schools. Online education has also been attempted–even though Russian attacks on power generators have severely restricted internet access. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian Ministry of Education reports that +95% of students were enrolled in schools (Human et al., 2023b).


The mass displacement of Ukrainian children has also increased the prevalence of human trafficking. Traffickers take advantage of and foment chaos at the borders, where children become separated from family members and are ultimately abducted (Siegfried, 2022). Traffickers include private and public bodies. The Yale School of Public Health found that Russian forces were abducting children and sending them to re-education camps (Viswanathan, 2023). Putin claims these transfers were conducted legally and saved their lives (Dickinson, 2023). Ukrainian officials have identified close to 20,000 victims, spread across Russia’s 40 camps, located from Crimea to Siberia. 

Palestine – Education amidst suffering, fear and occupation

 The recent events unfolding in Palestine have brought everything to a halt. Since the beginning of the occupation, Palestinian citizens have experienced numerous forms of suffering at the hands of Israeli authorities. Nevertheless, the current conflict has not only aggravated the fear and pain of Palestinian men and women but also prevented the proper development of future Palestinian generations.

  Education represents a significant element of Palestinian society. According to UNICEF, 95.4% of Palestinian children have been enrolled in primary education. However, the statistics fail to tackle an ongoing challenge: school access. While the enrollment percentage presents a chance for a bright future for Palestinian children, the reality on the ground seems different. Vulnerable categories such as adolescent children with disabilities are more likely to drop out of school, with  22.5% of boys and 30% of girls with disabilities aged 6-15 never even enrolling in schools (UNICEF, 2018). 

  Moreover, due to the ongoing tensions in the Palestinian territories, half a million children are in dire need of humanitarian assistance to access quality education. The volatile environment and repetitive violent episodes of escalation around the West Bank and Gaza Strip, alongside restrictions imposed by Israeli authorities, pose further threats and challenges to the protection of children’s rights within the Palestinian Territories. Furthermore, the violations of children’s rights in Palestine not only sabotage the ability of children to learn and develop their potential but also enhance mental health issues, with fear, distress and intimidation impacting their everyday lives (OCHA, 2017).

 While statistics bring an unparalleled contribution to the situation on the ground, they nevertheless fail to tackle the experiences of Palestinian children and citizens. In a recent article published by Al Jazeera, Ruwaida Amer, a science teacher at a local school in Gaza, describes the war’s impact on her everyday life.  “For me, it is an almost maternal relationship between me and my students, and it extends beyond schoolwork”, she recalls.  Since the government announced the suspension of the 2023-2024 school year, she has been unable to meet her students. She thoughtfully describes how her teaching career developed into something more than a teacher-student relationship. “They have this knack for making me laugh even when I am annoyed at their naughtiness – I cannot keep a straight face”, she fondly remembers. However, with the brink of the Israeli offensive within the territories of Palestine, the situation has changed. Now, all the beautiful experiences that she had with them are but mere memories. “I miss their morning sleepiness. I miss their naughtiness.  I miss hearing them shout “Miss!” when I greet them. I want this war to stop so I can go back to getting to know them.” (Amer et al., 2023)


Central Intelligence Agency. (2023). Congo, Democratic Republic of the – The World Factbook.

Dickinson, P. D. (2023, July 27). Russia’s mass abduction of Ukrainian children may qualify as genocide. Atlantic Council.

Education | Democratic Republic of the Congo | U.S. Agency for International Development. U.S. Agency For International Development. (n.d.-b). Education | Democratic Republic of the Congo | U.S. Agency for International Development.,of%20teachers%20tended%20to%20decrease.

France24. (2023, September 8). Violence makes eastern DR Congo “worst place” for children : 

UN. France 24.

Human Rights Watch. (2023). “Tanks on the Playground” Attacks on Schools and Military Use of Schools in Ukraine.

Human Rights Watch. (2023b, November 9). Ukraine: War’s Toll on Schools, Children’s Future. Human Rights Watch.,are%20attacks%20on%20their%20future

Independent International Commission of Inquiry in Ukraine. (2023). Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. OHCHR.

IPSTC. (2013). Reintegration of Child Soldiers in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. International Criminal Court.

New York University & International Rescue Committee. (2015). Opportunities for Equitable Access to Quality Basic Education (OPEQ): Final Report on the Impact of the OPEQ Intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Opportunities for Equitable Access to Quality Basic Education (OPEQ): Final report on the impact of the OPEQ intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (2015).

Prashad, J. P. (2020, May 19). Children of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – Humanium. Humanium.

Save The Children. (2023, June 27). DRC remains the epicentre of a child suffering in war as the country tops the world list of grave violations against children – the Democratic Republic of the Congo. ReliefWeb.  

Siegried, K. S. (2022, April 13). Ukraine crisis creates new trafficking risks. UNHCR.

United Nations. (2023, September 24). Ukraine: Civilian Casualty Update 24 September 2023.,9%2C701%20killed%20and%2017%2C748%20injured.

United Nations. (2017). Grave Violations.

N/D. “State of Palestine:  Out-of-school children”. UNICEF. 2018. Date of access: 18.11.2023

N/D. “Occupied Palestinian Territory: Humanitarian Needs Overview 2018, November 2017”. OCHA. 2017. Date of access: 18.11.2023

Amer. Ruwaida. “In this relentless war, oh, how I miss my students”. Al Jazeera. 2023. Date of access: 18.11.2023

Viswanathan, G. V. (2023, February 22). YSPH research reveals relocation and re-education of Ukrainian children – Yale Daily News. Yale Daily News.

International Migrants Day

18th December 2023

The United Nations (UN) estimates that 281 million people live outside their country of origin, 15% of whom are children. Individuals have always moved in search of new, better life opportunities. On International Migrants Day, Broken Chalk celebrates migration as humanity’s inherent and fundamental characteristic. Education is both a powerful tool for integration into host societies and a driver for migration, with families migrating to seek better educational opportunities for their children and thousands of young people migrating annually to pursue university degrees.

In situations of displacement, children and young people often experience difficulties accessing education, especially if they have an uncertain legal status. Schools are often compelled by migration authorities to detect, detain and deport undocumented migrant children and their families. Schools might also refuse to enrol migrants. However, the legal principle of non-discrimination establishes that all persons residing in the territory of a state, regardless of their legal status, must be guaranteed access to education. Broken Chalk calls for respect for the principle of non-discrimination to the right to education, regardless of a person’s legal status.

Denial of access to education, discrimination, or bullying is often a reflection of xenophobic and racist attitudes in the host country. Education must be recognised as a powerful driver for social cohesion, where children from diverse backgrounds coexist from an early age. Moreover, schools must address discrimination and bullying towards foreigners, and policies must ensure equal access to opportunities. In addition to this, migrant teachers should have their qualifications recognised so they can actively use their first language to help newcomers integrate. For instance, the EU Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion 2021-2027 acknowledges the need for more recognition of foreign qualifications. Broken Chalk highlights that a lack of effective integration, as well as forms of discrimination towards newcomers, can result in school drop-out, which might lead to social exclusion and have lifelong consequences.

The 2030 Agenda recognises migrants as a vulnerable group whose rights must be addressed and must be empowered persons. While migration might be seen as a stage of growth for some, for others, migration could be due to the adverse effects of conflict, climate change, and labour markets. Within the sustainable development goals, target 10.7, “reduce inequality in and among countries” to “facilitate orderly, safe, and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies”, is a direct reference to migration. This Sustainable Development Goal provides an opportunity for mobile populations to be empowered. By investing in their empowerment, we cultivate beneficial persons for their personal growth and for the greater good of humanity. Broken Chalk urges countries to be diligent and execute carefully formulated and well-administered migration policies.

Within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), most children migrate irregularly. Irregular child migrants are at a heightened risk of being subject to trafficking, sexual exploitation, detention or being engaged in informal labour. In 2019, ASEAN leaders adopted the ASEAN Declaration on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration and subsequently implemented the Regional Plan of Action. This laid out core principles to address the vulnerabilities faced by children in the context of migration. The initiative by ASEAN encompasses collective action to strengthen national systems for children in matters including but not limited to child protection, education, psychosocial support, health, safe environment and justice. Broken Chalk appeals to leaders, policymakers, and other stakeholders to pay heed to the voices of migrant children and make informed decisions for the future.

We must take a pledge to provide them with the tools not only to survive but to thrive in their journey across borders. This International Migrants Day, let the term migrants be synonymous with resilience, innovation and, most importantly, global empowerment.

Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect.


Broken Chalk

Unlocking Venezuela’s future: Addressing Primary Educational Challenges

Written by Olimpia Guidi

Education stands as the cornerstone of a nation’s future, casting a guiding light on the path to development, prosperity, and a brighter tomorrow. The pursuit of knowledge is not just a fundamental human right but a critical catalyst for individual, societal, and economic progress worldwide, transcending borders to unlock opportunities for personal growth and national success. In Venezuela, at the heart of South America, the imperative of education becomes even more pronounced due to the nation’s myriad political, economic, and social challenges. 

This article will delve into the primary challenges within Venezuela’s education system, from funding shortages to deteriorating infrastructure, plummeting enrollment, and diminishing educational quality. These challenges serve as a wake-up call, demanding a closer examination of Venezuela’s educational landscape (Marquez, 2023).Venezuela’s education woes are tightly woven into its past, present, and future fabric. By proactively addressing these issues, the nation can reinvigorate its education system and, by extension, its prospects.

Historical Context

Venezuela’s educational system mirrors the nation’s complex history. It’s vital to traverse the educational past to understand its current challenges. Before the Spanish conquest, indigenous cultures had their knowledge transmission methods. In the 16th century, Spanish colonists introduced significant changes. The Catholic Church established educational institutions to convert and educate the native population (Haggerty, 1990).

In the early 19th century, Venezuela’s fight for independence recognised education as a nation-building tool. In 1827, under Simón Bolívar’s leadership, a pioneering statute was enacted, laying the foundation for a public education system and primary and secondary schools (Bushnell, 1983). The 20th century brought educational expansion and illiteracy eradication (Gonzales, 2019), altering curricula and enhancing teacher training.

However, recent decades have seen Venezuela’s educational system grapple with economic crises, political turmoil, and budget constraints, impacting its stability and quality. Reforms were introduced in response to these challenges, yielding mixed outcomes. The introduction of the Higher Education Law in 2010 was part of a broader set of education reforms. Unfortunately, these reforms, including changes in university autonomy and regulations for social inclusion, faced implementation challenges.

The law’s impact raised concerns about academic freedom and compromised the quality of education in the higher education sector, contributing to the overall challenges within Venezuela’s educational system. This connection between historical context and contemporary reforms highlights the complexity of the issues facing the nation’s education system.

Current Educational Challenges

In Venezuela’s contemporary educational landscape, several challenges undermine the holistic development of the nation’s youth. These complex issues are deeply intertwined with political and economic turmoil, affecting access to education and financial resources. The following sections will delve into these problems, exploring their consequences and the ongoing search for effective solutions.

Infrastructure and Maintenance Issues

The deteriorating infrastructure of educational institutions threatens the basic foundations of high-quality education in Venezuela. The safety and supportive learning environment essential to fostering great education has been compromised by deteriorating school structures and poor upkeep (Marquez, 2023). For instance, many schools in Caracas, the nation’s capital, have dilapidated infrastructure, including leaking roofs and collapsing walls.

In addition, 85% of public schools lack internet access, 69% experience severe electrical shortages, and 45% lack running water (World Bank, 2023). These startling figures highlight the critical need for infrastructure renewal to provide Venezuela’s pupils with a secure and supportive learning environment.

Worries have been expressed about the infrastructure problem, which not only jeopardises the well-being of educators working within these unstable premises but also looms over the holistic growth of children. Apprehensions have arisen regarding the possible impacts of this challenge on students’ psychological well-being and physical security. It is imperative to address these multifaceted infrastructural challenges to ensure that students can learn in a safe, supportive, and conducive environment, which is fundamental to their educational journey.

Brain Drain and Teacher Shortages

Venezuela’s educational system grapples with a two-pronged challenge stemming from teachers’ scarcity and inadequate income. This dilemma is exacerbated by the ‘brain drain’ – the departure of educated professionals seeking better prospects abroad – and the consequent shortage of qualified educators. Particularly evident in regions like Mérida, once a vibrant university town, this loss of skilled teachers has left schools in a state of understaffing, resulting in significant imbalances in student-teacher ratios (The World Factbook, 2022).

The scarcity of educators with the necessary qualifications further compounds the issue. Some teachers have abandoned the profession or sought opportunities abroad due to wage disparities and difficult working conditions (Zea, 2020). The high student-teacher ratios alone pose a significant burden, but the exodus of talent exacerbates the problem, hindering the ability to deliver targeted instruction and effective pedagogical engagement.

It is essential to underscore that the shortage of teachers in Venezuela directly results from the ‘brain drain’ and the inadequate compensation provided to educators. Many teachers, unable to make a decent living on their salaries, have resorted to strikes and protests in response to this dire situation. This twofold dilemma significantly compounds the challenges faced by the educational system, raising serious concerns about the continuity and quality of education in the nation.

Venezuelan Refugees in Brazil, 2018. Photo by Romério Cunha / Casa Civil Presidência da República via Flickr

Impact of the Economic Crisis                          

Funding for the education sector has dramatically decreased due to Venezuela’s economic crisis. The lack of money leaves schools with few resources to deliver high-quality education and impacts the provision of necessary services and teacher salaries. Many schools find it challenging to keep up with basic maintenance, much less update their curricula or invest in cutting-edge technology.

The government’s ability to fund education investments has also been limited since other budgetary priorities like infrastructure and healthcare have taken precedence (UNESCO, 2023). Because of this, efforts to deliver a high-quality education are hampered, and funding for education is disrupted.

Furthermore, the financial crisis has reached a point where many parents find it increasingly challenging to afford to send their children to school. The economic hardships have pushed families to make agonising choices, sometimes prioritising essentials like food and shelter over their children’s education (Sanchez & Rodriguez, 2019).

This heartbreaking reality has led to declining student enrollment as more children are forced to stay out of school due to financial constraints. It also highlights a worrisome trend where access to education is no longer a guarantee for many Venezuelan children, further deepening the educational challenges faced by the country.

The financial crisis has not only impacted education spending but has also restricted the ability of families to provide their children with the fundamental right to education.

Political Instability and Impact on Education

Political unrest in Venezuela has developed into a recurrent and disruptive force that significantly impacts the educational system. The sudden closure of schools, the postponement of courses, and the relocation of pupils are characteristics of these situations.The unpredictability of such occurrences adds a chaotic element to the educational environment, leaving students and teachers unsure about the continuation of their academic endeavours.

The country’s approach to education has suffered from a lack of continuity and coherence, one of its most severe effects due to this political unrest.Every time a new leadership is appointed, educational policies are revised, resulting in a fractured and fragmented foundation for education. It is difficult to execute long-term strategies for improvement because of these frequent changes that disturb the educational ecology (Education World, 2023).

This puts teachers and students in limbo and makes it harder to provide high-quality education consistently. Political unrest disrupts the operation of the educational system and affects students’ educational experiences in a long-lasting way.

In addition, the effects of the unrest transcend far beyond the short-term interruptions to Venezuela’s educational system. The nation’s future is now in doubt due to the instability, which prevents the growth of an educated and skilled labour force due to ongoing changes in educational and political policies. The potential for advancement in the country is jeopardised as pupils struggle with missed classes and teachers battle to keep up with ever-shifting mandates. Political unrest’s long-term effects on education are felt in the classroom and Venezuela’s broader socioeconomic prospects, making it difficult for its population to navigate an unsteady educational environment.

Efforts and Initiatives

The government of Venezuela continues to deny the terrible condition of the educational system in the nation. The prospects for Venezuelan school children would be quite bleak if not for the brave efforts of foreign humanitarian groups, private charities, and the helpful aid from parents and local volunteers. These youngsters, who lack access to school, will have an unclear future and will be more vulnerable to exploitation. Numerous other organisations are stepping forward to start programs to change the situation due to the government’s apparent unwillingness to confront the problems in the educational system.

Among them is UNICEF, a leading advocate for children’s rights worldwide. Their 2021 initiatives cover a variety of crucial activities:

• Balanced School Meals: To promote the healthy development of over 110,000 students, balanced school meals are provided.

• School Supplies: Providing more than 304,000 kids with necessary school supplies can make their educational journey easier.

• Life Skills Development: Through specialised programs, equipping more than 50,000 teenagers with useful life skills.

• Preparing more than 10,000 teachers through programs, such as those geared toward a safe return to school.

• Support for Teachers: Enabling nearly 7,000 teachers to carry out their vital tasks more efficiently by providing them with food incentives, financial aid, and technological equipment.

In addition to UNICEF’s efforts, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) significantly contributes to resolving Venezuela’s educational problems. NRC works with various partners to develop solutions and assist disadvantaged families in keeping their children in school.

NRC is aware of the complicated circumstances of displacement and financial difficulties that frequently drive children out of school. This is especially crucial in light of the socioeconomic crisis that has resulted in a paucity of school supplies, deteriorating infrastructure, and a lack of teachers.

To support students returning to school after lengthy absences, NRC’s holistic approach includes disseminating instructional resources, enhancing teacher training, and improving school infrastructure to improve accessibility and hygiene. These programs address critical issues and highlight the possibility of significant reform in the country’s educational system, offering a glimmer of hope for the future of education in Venezuela.


Significant funding shortfalls, deteriorating infrastructure, dropping enrollment rates, and declining educational standards are some significant issues facing Venezuela’s educational system. It is imperative that these issues are addressed in the context of the nation. When we examine these problems through the prism of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it becomes clear that they play a crucial role in the trajectory of the nation’s growth. In particular, SDG 4, which aims to guarantee inclusive and high-quality education for all, is closely related to these educational difficulties.

The change in the educational system is crucial for the welfare of the Venezuelan population and possibilities for the future. It is crucial to acknowledge that access to high-quality education is a fundamental human right and a pillar of greater social and economic development, in keeping with the global commitment to the SDGs. Venezuela may navigate a road towards reaching the SDGs and pave the way for a more egalitarian, successful, and promising future for all its residents by making significant efforts to solve these educational difficulties.

  1. Bushnell, D. (1983). The Last Dictator-ship: Betrayal or Consummation? The Hispanic American Historical Review, 63(1), pp.65–105.
  • Haggerty, R.A. (1990). Venezuela: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress.
  • Marquez, H. (2023). Venezuela’s Educational System Heading Towards State of Total Collapse. Inter Press Service.
  • Norwegian Refugee Council. (2022). NRC in Venezuela.
  • Sanchez, E., Rodriguez, L. (2019). 4 Ways the Venezuelan Crisis is Affecting Children’s Education.  Global Citizen.
  • The World Factbook. (2022). Explore All Countries Venezuela.
  • UNESCO. (2023). Country Profile: Venezuela.
  • World Bank. (2023). Education in Venezuela.
  • Garcia Zea, D. (2020). Brain drains in Venezuela: the scope of the human capital crisis. Human Resource Development International, 23(2), pp.188-195.

Featured Image: Venezuela, 2016. Photo by tomscoffin via Flickr

Educational Challenges in Uganda

Written by Luna Plet

Uganda, also known as the “Pearl of Africa” is home to more than 32.0 million people and is rich in culture and diversity.[i] Since the colonial period, the education system has undergone many systematic changes. After gaining independence in 1962, several committees and other government actors were created to monitor educational systems and standards throughout the country. This has positively influenced the nation, as literacy rates have grown exponentially in the past years. Most recently, the literacy rate (of those 15 and older) has increased by 2.47% from 2018 to about 79% in 2021.[ii] In Uganda, children view school as a vital and happiness-inducing aspect of their lives, strongly linking it to their aspirations for achieving future success and securing good jobs.[iii] They relish their interactions with their peers. The situation is a source of sadness and anxiety for those not in school, as they fear it may jeopardize their prospects. However, obtaining an education remains one of their foremost life goals, and they are determined to attain it. Therefore, this article will delve deep into the challenges that Uganda is facing that result in the barrier between children and education.


Poverty and education are inextricably linked, as individuals living in poverty may drop out of school to engage in activities that provide immediate livelihood improvements.  While income inequality, gender disparities, and regional disparities present significant obstacles, Ugandans are leveraging education to carve brighter futures for themselves.[iv] This progress is evident through government initiatives, private school alternatives, and the enduring zeal for education among the Ugandan populace.

Public Education Initiatives

Uganda instituted the Universal Primary Education Policy in 1997, which eliminated fees for students attending the first seven years of school, covering primary 1 to primary 7. Although attendance remained voluntary, parents were still responsible for providing essential supplies and contributing to the construction of school facilities. Remarkably, primary school attendance surged by 145% within six years of implementing this policy. In 2007, the program expanded to encompass secondary education.[v] This remarkable increase in attendance reflects the profound thirst for education within Uganda. Although this can help combat poverty by ensuring universal access to education, the program’s impact on poverty remains limited. John Ekaju argues that this ‘UPE-centric’ approach overlooks the predicament of a considerable number of illiterate children, youth, and adults.[vi] Although the UPE policy eliminated general fees, the reality is that schooling is not entirely free, as families continue to grapple with expenses such as Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) fees, books, materials, mid-day meals, examination fees, and uniforms.[vii] Moreover, children, both in primary and secondary levels, are plagued by concerns about the threat of physical violence and sexual abuse from teachers or peers, rampant teacher absenteeism, and overcrowded and inadequately maintained facilities, often citing these as reasons for their non-attendance or dropout[viii]. Therefore, Ekaju suggests a reevaluation of the policy, predicting that enhanced higher education could halve poverty rates.

Moreover, poverty profoundly impacts school readiness, which reflects a child’s ability to thrive academically and socially in a school environment. Poverty negatively affects school readiness through various factors, including health issues stemming from inadequate nutrition, homelessness, food insecurity, and the inability to access medical treatment for illnesses. These factors place immense stress on learners, hindering their ability to succeed in school.

Challenges in Secondary and Higher Education

Education in Uganda is intensely competitive, with rigorous examinations following primary school dictating access to secondary education. Often, this selection process favours the best-performing students, with schools striving to enhance their grade averages and national rankings. While primary education attendance has improved, the quality of education itself has not kept pace. The dearth of resources coupled with an overwhelming student-to-teacher ratio, sometimes reaching 100 students per class, creates adverse conditions for educators and learners.[ix] This impairs the effectiveness of individualized instruction, a critical component of quality education. Consequently, students who aspire to receive a quality education often turn to costly private schools.

Gender Roles in Education

Remarkably, girls have achieved significant educational progress, with higher primary and secondary enrollment rates than boys.[x] However, they still confront gender-based obstacles to staying in school, including early marriages and negative community attitudes towards girls’ education, such as the perception that fees are wasted on them. Some girls are additionally hindered by their inability to afford sanitary pads, leading to occasional absences and, in some cases, permanent dropouts.

Role of Private Education

Boarding and private schools offer a higher quality of education, supported by better-qualified teachers who can provide personalized attention to students. This option is promising for some families but remains inaccessible to those entrenched in poverty. Many families in Uganda survive on less than $2 a day, and the typical annual costs for primary schools range from $50 to $150 for day schools, making them financially unattainable. The Initiative for Social and Economic Rights emphasizes that the fees charged by private schools perpetuate discrimination and further exclude children from low-income households.

Photo by Stijn Kleerebezem on Unsplash


March 2020 will forever be etched in the annals of the education community in Uganda as the month when all schools across the nation shuttered their doors.[xi] The government’s decision to institute nationwide school closures was a response to the looming threat of the deadly coronavirus pandemic. The far-reaching consequences of this decision affected pupils and students across the country.

Despite the widening income gap among Ugandan families, a substantial portion of whom benefit from Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE), the swift implementation of these closures necessitated an abrupt shift to internet, television, radios, and newspapers for learning, particularly among the candidate classes. This inevitable transition placed immense pressure on candidates, leaving little room for comprehensive planning. According to recent poverty statistics released by the Ministry of Finance, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated poverty levels in Uganda, with a rise to 28 per cent.[xii] The Eastern region, with a higher poverty rate and a higher likelihood of falling into poverty, surged to 53.3 percent from 28.9 percent, followed by the Northern region at 44.8 percent from 30.3 percent. Unsurprisingly, the general performance levels in the final 2020 Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) exams, both for UPE and USE, serve as a reflection of the income disparities in the country, particularly between regions.

Poverty and education are inextricably linked, as individuals living in poverty may drop out of school to engage in activities that provide immediate livelihood improvements. Despite government promises to ensure continuity of learning during school closures, there was little progress in providing learners with access to devices such as radios and televisions, particularly in rural households and villages. Furthermore, many households lacked dry cells for radios, and most rural areas suffered from a lack of electricity. Combined with challenges in internet connectivity and network coverage, as well as economic pressures on families, distance learning became an unrealistic solution. Overall, resource inequalities between rural and urban areas have persisted for decades, with rural areas lacking the necessary technology and infrastructure for transformation. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated these disparities.


In conclusion, recognizing the significance of investing in children is paramount for national development. With children and young people constituting a substantial portion of the population, they represent invaluable assets for Uganda’s future. Child poverty transcends individual and household levels, extending to lifelong consequences such as compromised education and diminished earning potential for those whose growth is stunted in their formative years. The ripple effect extends to the economy, with estimates indicating that Uganda experiences an annual GDP loss of 5.6% due to undernutrition.[xiii] Consequently, it is imperative that interventions in health, education, and protection target children at the right juncture. Such investments guarantee the fulfilment of children’s rights and set in motion a virtuous cycle of growth and human development, benefiting the nation as a whole.

Overall, these findings underscore the pressing need to address educational challenges in Uganda to ensure that children, particularly those from marginalized backgrounds, have equal access to quality education, fostering their personal development and the nation’s future growth and development.


[i] “Facts & Figures | Uganda National Web Portal.”

[ii] “Uganda Literacy Rate 1991-2023.”

[iii] UNICEF, “Situation Analysis of Child Poverty and Deprivation in Uganda.”


[v] Thelwell, “The Impact of Education on Poverty in Uganda.”

[vi] Thelwell.

[vii] UNICEF, “Situation Analysis of Child Poverty and Deprivation in Uganda.”

[viii] UNICEF.

[ix] Thelwell, “The Impact of Education on Poverty in Uganda.”

[x] UNICEF, “Situation Analysis of Child Poverty and Deprivation in Uganda.”

[xi] The independent, “Poverty Undermines Uganda’s Public Education.”

[xii] The independent.

[xiii] UNICEF, “Situation Analysis of Child Poverty and Deprivation in Uganda.”

“Facts & Figures | Uganda National Web Portal.” Accessed October 17, 2023.

The independent. “Poverty Undermines Uganda’s Public Education.” The Independent Uganda: (blog), August 12, 2021.

Thelwell, Kim. “The Impact of Education on Poverty in Uganda.” The Borgen Project (blog), July 23, 2020.

Tuyambe – Kinder Not in Africa. “EDUCATION CHALLENGES FACED BY UGANDAN CHILDREN IN RURAL AREAS,” September 28, 2020.

“Uganda Literacy Rate 1991-2023.” Accessed October 17, 2023.

UNICEF. “Situation Analysis of Child Poverty and Deprivation in Uganda,” 2014.

Cover Image by bill wegener on Unsplash

The silent sacrifice: Children in Cobalt Mines and the Toll on their Education

Written by Anna S. Kordesch

In the cobalt-abundant regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a grim reality hides beneath the earth’s surface. Children, some as young as six, labour in hazardous mines, extracting a mineral vital to the global technological advancement—cobalt. This essential element, used in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries for devices like smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles, exacts a heavy toll not only on the youthful miners but also on their aspirations for education, which are left in ruins.

This article delves into the distressing ordeals of children working in the cobalt mining sector and the significant repercussions it exerts on their educational prospects. By scrutinising the diverse elements that sustain this cycle of exploitation, the aim is to uncover the systemic challenges eroding the prospects of an entire generation in DRC.

Although education represents the promise of a more hopeful future, it remains an elusive 

aspiration for many children trapped in cobalt mines. It is crucial to delve into the complex network of elements that deprive these young individuals of the chance to receive an education, develop, and escape the relentless grip of poverty. This text explores the limitations in access to schools, insufficient educational infrastructure, and the economic burdens that compel children to work in the mines. By doing so, it scrutinises how these interrelated difficulties perpetuate a cycle of illiteracy, effectively stripping an entire generation of their potential.

This article serves as a strong call, calling upon governments, corporations, and civil society to confront the entrenched problems that uphold the exploitation of children in cobalt mines. Through our efforts to shed light on the severe impact on education, we aim to spark substantive conversations and motivate tangible actions aimed at protecting the rights and prospects of these at-risk children.

Mining in Kailo, Congo. Photo by Julien Harneis on Wikimedia Commons.

The Importance of Cobalt for the World Market

Cobalt (Co) is a global metal with widespread applications in commercial, industrial, and military sectors. Its primary and essential use is in the electrodes of rechargeable batteries. Cobalt is a crucial component for many of today’s everyday devices, including smartphones, laptops, tablets, and various other electronic gadgets. Moreover, it plays a vital role in renewable energy technologies, being used in wind turbines and solar panels i.

Southern Congo is situated above an estimated 3.4 million metric tons of cobalt, representing over half of the world’s known supply. Many Congolese, including children, have taken 

employment in the industrial mines in this region. The vast cobalt reserves highlight that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will likely remain the primary source meeting the increasing global demand for cobalt in lithium-ion batteries. DRC’s cobalt mine production has experienced almost constant growth, going from 11,000 mines in 2000 to 98,000 in 2020. This remarkable increase is closely linked to the world’s escalating need for this metal. While the DRC is home to valuable minerals such as cobalt, copper, coltan, and gold, it is also one of the world’s most impoverished nations, grappling with issues of poverty and humanitarian crises that afflict its population ii.

Small-scale mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) engages individuals of all age groups, including children, who are compelled to labour under challenging and unfavourable conditions. Among the 255,000 Congolese involved in cobalt mining, 40,000 are children, with some as young as six years old. Most of them earn less than $2 per day, primarily relying on their hands as their primary tools for work iii.

The Dangers of Cobalt Mining

Unfortunately, children are indeed involved in artisanal mining. The youngest children often start by accompanying their mothers to the mines, while older ones take care of their younger siblings and, over time, become directly involved in the mining activities. The prevailing perception in developed countries is that child labour is a practice to be unequivocally condemned, representing one of the worst forms of exploitation.

In addition to the environmental toll of cobalt mining activities, there is a significant human cost  associated with it. For adults working in these mines, there’s a heightened risk of injury or even death. This peril stems from the lack of basic protective equipment, such as hard hats and vests, as miners often work barefoot and use their hands to extract ores. Furthermore, in a 2016 report by Amnesty International, it was revealed that many mines are constructed in unsafe ways, subjecting workers to life-threatening situations in their pursuit of cobalt. Numerous miners have lost their lives or suffered severe injuries due to incidents like tunnel or pit collapses, underground fires, and suffocation. The risks of accidents resulting from improperly constructed excavations and mines can lead to fatalities from suffocation, asphyxiation, or drowning.

Children, in particular, are exposed to this inhumane working environment, living in constant fear for their lives as they strive to earn money to support their families. Child labor is a grave issue in the DRC, where children not only work in an unsafe environment but also face physical abuse, sexual exploitation and are exposed to drug use.

Environmental factors also pose significant risks in cobalt mining, including mosquito-borne illnesses linked to unintended water pooling in placer mining areas or diarrheal diseases caused by poor sanitation practices. These health concerns can be exacerbated by the remote locations of the mines and the absence of medical services, making timely treatment often unavailable.

Artisanal mining. Photo by Fairphone, on Flickr.

Where does Education Fit In?

In addition to the clear violations of human rights and the life-threatening conditions that children in the DRC face due to their labour, their right to education is profoundly impacted. While the Congolese government introduced the DRC Child Protection Code in 2009, which mandates “free and compulsory primary education,” the lack of adequate government funding places the burden of covering non-tuition fees, including teacher salaries and uniform costs, on parents. Parents are required to pay between 10,000 and 30,000 Congolese Francs ($10-30) per month, an expense that many cannot afford. This financial barrier further hinders these children’s access to education. While parents may aspire to provide their children with access to formal education, economic constraints frequently force them to withhold this educational opportunity in the interest of ensuring the family’s financial viability iv.

Kabedi is a 12-year-old girl in the DRC who has returned to school after three hard years of working in an artisanal copper and cobalt mine. She explains, “When I was 9, I started working in the mine after my father died to help my mother.” Kabedi toiled from morning to night, seven days a week, collecting, crushing, and transporting copper and cobalt ores. Despite her efforts, at the end of the day, Kabedi would return home exhausted with an average of 5,000 Congolese Francs (around $2.5) in her pocket. This starkly illustrates that while these children work in cobalt mines out of sheer necessity, the income they earn is still insufficient to cover their basic needs and education costs v.

Furthermore, the gruelling work hours these children endure highlight that this kind of life is fundamentally incompatible with the continuity of education. In the DRC, the average number of years of education completed by young adults is less than four. Data reveals that only about 18% of the total population manages to attain the highest education level, which is six years of schooling. Many children have to forsake their education to bring food to the table at the end of the day. This results in a self-perpetuating cycle in which, once caught, it becomes exceedingly challenging to extricate oneself from and consequently pursue an education vi.

Access to education plays a pivotal role in significantly reducing vulnerability to child slavery and can serve as a means to lift children out of poverty. Therefore, safeguarding the availability of education is a crucial element in preventing child slavery and mitigating vulnerability to exploitative labour and slavery in adulthood.

Potential Solutions

Solutions to address mining injustices can involve various stakeholders. An example of such 

efforts is the Fund for the Prevention of Child Labor in Mining Communities, a collaboration between UNICEF and the Global Battery Alliance. Through this initiative, UNICEF aims to support the school reintegration of 500 children who have left mining work. While international organisations are playing their part in upholding children’s right to quality education, jeopardised by harsh physical labour, civil society is raising awareness through the hashtag #NoCongoNoPhone to combat the cobalt supply chain that fosters child labour. A third key actor, the government in the DRC, is working with the Enterprise Generale du Cobalt to gain control over the artisanal cobalt mining sector, with the aim of curbing the illegal use of children as forced labour. These collective efforts from various actors are essential in addressing the complex issues surrounding child labour in cobalt mining vii.

Indeed, this collective action involving a multitude of actors is essential to effectively combat this illegal employment, which deprives countless children of a meaningful future that hinges on their right to quality education. Society must become aware of the dark realities occurring behind the everyday use of these common devices. It is only through such global awareness that children in the DRC can hope for a chance to one day lead age-appropriate lives, free from the burden of child labour in the cobalt mines.


Gulley, A. L. (2022). One hundred years of cobalt production in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Resources Policy, 79, 103007.

The DRC mining industry: Child labour and formalisation of small-scale mining. Wilson Center. (n.d.).

Alshantti, O. (2023, March 15). Cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: The human and environmental costs of the transition to Green Technology. Spheres of Influence.

From mine to school. UNICEF. (2021, May 15).

Democratic Republic of Congo – World Bank. (n.d.).

Philipp, J. (2021, November 5). The effects of cobalt mining in the DRC. The Borgen Project.

i The DRC Mining Industry: Child labor and Formalization of Small-Scale Mining. (n.d.). Wilson Center.

ii Gulley, A. L. (2022). One hundred years of cobalt production in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Resources Policy, 79, 103007.

iii The DRC mining industry: Child labour and formalisation of small-scale mining. Wilson Center. (n.d.).

iv Alshantti, O. (2023, March 15). Cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: The human and environmental costs of the transition to Green Technology. Spheres of Influence.

v From mine to school. UNICEF. (2021, May 15).

vi Democratic Republic of Congo – World Bank. (n.d.).

vii Philipp, J. (2021, November 5). The effects of cobalt mining in the DRC. The Borgen Project.

Press Release: #Act4RightsNow! Broken Chalk calls on everybody to stand up for educational rights and human rights education all over the world

December 10, 2023

Human Rights Day

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “All humans are born free and equal”. This December 10th, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a milestone for universally protected freedom, equality, and justice. The document implies 30 rights and freedoms guaranteed to every human being regardless of nationality, gender, origin, religion, language, political or other status.

After the Second World War, countries from all regions and diverse cultural and political contexts came together and recognised these fundamental human rights for the first time in history in December 1948, 75 years ago. Even though the declaration is not binding, it depicts the basis for international human rights law, and many countries enshrined its meanings into their national constitutions. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been translated into more than 500 languages, making it the most translated document in the world. Together, this reflects its importance for every one of us.

In times of political rupture, Broken Chalk calls for the protection of fundamental and universal Human Rights. Political actors must stand together in the fight for justice, equality, and dignity of the people in this world.

Regrettably, as we observe this significant day, the shadows of colonisation and exploitation persist, particularly impacting populations in the Global South. In this regard, Broken Chalk extends our solidarity to the oppressed and reaffirms the importance of eliminating all forms of human rights violations or restrictions. The struggles against the alarming violations happening around the globe, notably in Palestine, Sudan, Congo, and where people are fighting for their rights, remind us that collective efforts are key to addressing these issues. As the famous saying goes, no one is free until everyone is free. The right to education will only be secured and accessible for everyone if the fundamental rights can be enjoyed.

For this reason, Broken Chalk keeps working in the area of advocacy and lobbying on behalf of educational victims, preparing reports to raise awareness of unseen human rights violations. Throughout this year, Broken Chalk has diligently released articles on educational challenges in different countries, submitted reports to echo the calls of the United Nations for input, and drafted press releases for human rights-related commemorations. We also maintain active relationships with international organisations sharing similar mandates and causes, thereby contributing to a broader advocacy network. On this special day, we celebrate our ongoing commitment to this cause and pay tribute to all human rights defenders who work under threats, censorship, and distress. They deserve the utmost respect and acknowledgement.

Nevertheless, human rights action is not only the responsibility of political actors and human rights defenders. As the fight for human rights never ends, Broken Chalk encourages everybody to stand up for their human rights and the rights of others. We strongly call for action in your daily life, including at the workplace and school.

Building on the achievements of these 75 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), while recognising the urgent need to address human rights violations still perpetrated around the world, we raise our voice to call upon all humanity to incessantly commit to human rights protection in all fields, especially education.

We consider an informed human rights action to be powerfully effective. In this respect, education plays a fundamental and transformative role for the present and next generations. Using human rights education, a spirit of respect for human dignity takes root both in the personal development of everybody and in social common understanding. As more investments are necessary to ensure the right to quality education for all, so must we invest in shared values and beliefs that safeguard us throughout life.

As the fourth phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education unfolds, Broken Chalk advocates for compulsory human rights education in school curricula worldwide, in line with Target 7 of SDG 4. We believe that increasing knowledge about human rights is the launching pad to a brighter future where we can fully enjoy our rights.

Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect.


Broken Chalk

Written by Eliana Riggi, Leyang Fu, & Luzi Maj Leonhardt.