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The offer of 20,000 scholarships to Colombian university students contrasts with the crisis in this country and the disagreements expressed by Venezuelan students
While in Colombia students protests, nearly for 50 days, are being held, claiming for the financing of public education and demanding guarantees from the government of Iván Duque; the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, recently offered to those students, a package of 20,000 scholarships to go to study at Venezuelan universities.
Leer en español: Venezuela: La alternativa de estudiantes latinoamericanos
"20,000 young university students from Colombia, who come to study, we have how to serve them. There are 20,000 university places to come to study medicine, engineering, agronomy, astronomy, law, administration, economics or whatever they want to study," said Maduro, as related by the TeleSUR news network.
But what is behind Maduro's offer? Why he does it at a time of crisis when there have been reports of deficiencies in Venezuelan universities and disagreements on the part of students and graduates of these institutions?
The problems of education in Venezuela:
Unconformities with budgetary allocations, shortages in inputs and endowments for classes and academic programs, reduction of the payrolls of teachers, among others, are some of the difficulties currently facing education in Venezuela, all as a result of inflation and the economic crisis that day by day it becomes more acute.
"For some years, the situation of education in the country has been deteriorating. The educational programs declined a lot, there are high dropout rates and the payroll of teachers has been reduced because many of them have resigned because they have left the country, and this has aggravated the situation. In Venezuela, there are many public universities of very high level, but the budget for these universities has been reduced every year and the government does not allocate the resources it has to allocate," explained Adriana Pirela, Biologist at the Universidad de Los Andes in Mérida (Venezuela), on the Uniminuto Radio station.
Pirela said that after the salary increase that President Maduro decreed weeks ago, there have been protests in cities such as Merida and Caracas, among others, demanding the payment of those salaries. However, he said that universities cannot keep up with these payments, beyond what was decreed by Maduro.
"The other situation is that many subjects of different careers have closed completely because there are no inputs to keep them open, especially those who need a laboratory, such as medicine, science, and nursing. To this, it is added that many professors have left, as happened at the Simón Bolívar University, which has lost more than 40% of its professors. Besides, universities now have the threat of being closed, there are universities with more than 200 years of history that today can be closed, while the government threatens to intervene, despite their university autonomy," added Pirela.
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Foreigners who go to study in Venezuela
Long before Nicolás Maduro offered the 20,000 scholarships to Colombian students, Venezuela was already a destination of great interest for students not only from Colombia but from other countries such as Ecuador. Unlike in Colombia, in Venezuela education is free and public since 1870, and even with the crisis and the problems already mentioned, students from both countries are attracted to Venezuelan universities for two reasons: the quality of training and the costs, because these are much cheaper compared to their countries.
"Professionals from Colombia and Ecuador, interested in fourth and fifth academic level courses (postgraduate degrees ranging from specializations to doctorates), find in the public universities of Venezuela a perfect combination: very economic enrollment and quality in education, despite the crisis. Doctoral students pay in the LUZ (University of Zulia) USD 1,500 each semester, the registration costs them USD 500 and that is added expenses of flights, lodging, food, and transportation each time they travel to Maracaibo: about USD 1,000 in total ", says BBC Mundo.
BBC Mundo explains that compared to what a Colombian student can spend on their postgraduate training, in Venezuela they invest a maximum total of USD 8,000, while in Colombia the figure can reach USD 40,000. Equally, another key factor is the high level of training of the professors who dictate the classes in those universities.
Another important aspect of the presence of foreign students in Venezuelan universities is the support that these institutions have for their support, understanding that the financing problems are in force and that, depending directly on the Venezuelan State, their resources are limited due to the economic crisis:
"The experience has also been economically beneficial for the University of Zulia, a centennial institution that depends on the Venezuelan State and whose authorities complain about a budget deficit. Revenues from postgraduate studies allow the faculties of the university to repair their infrastructure, pay salaries to teachers or purchase equipment, "says BBC Mundo in its article.
Although the boom of foreign students in the universities of Venezuela is something viable and beneficial for both parties, this is also a consequence of the crisis in this country, which is becoming more acute every day, and which also affects public education. This prosperity lowers educational costs and the scholarships offered by Maduro, could be interpreted to divert attention from criticism and current problems in Venezuela.
LatinAmerican Post | Samuel Augusto Gallego Suárez
Translated from: 'Venezuela: La alternativa de estudiantes latinoamericanos'