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EDUCATION: Dominican Government to keep poor people ignorant and at the bottom of society

SANTO DOMINGO, May 7, 2011  (IPS) – The government of the Dominican Republic, where one-third of  the population of is under 14 years of age, is facing a well- organised and growing citizens’ campaign to increase the  amount spent on public education.

The current budget calls for spending of 1.3 billion dollars, which  is only 2.4 percent of the gross domestic product of the nation.  According to a law passed in 1997, four percent of the GDP is to be  allocated to education.

The Dominican Republic spends much less on public education than most  countries in the region. Cuba spends the most in the hemisphere at  18.7 percent, El Salvador spends eight percent, Jamaica spends 6.1  percent, Mexico 5.3 percent and Costa Rica 5.1 percent. In this  hemisphere, only Haiti at 1.4 percent and Ecuador at one percent  spend less on educating their children.

The campaign was launched by various civic groups and is aided by  advertisements featuring local celebrities urging people to come out  for various protests, wearing something yellow. Large yellow  umbrellas with “4 percent “printed in black are displayed on  balconies around the capital. An increasing number of cars sport the  bright yellow bumper stickers.

At four p.m., on the fourth of each month, supporters are asked to  assemble, wearing something yellow, at various points in the country.  On Wednesday this week, some of the protestors were removed from the  entrance of the opening of a two-week book fair, one of the main  events in the capital.

Earlier, at the scheduled four p.m. time of assembly, a protest group  stood on the sidewalk opposite the National Palace.

“We here to demand that the government comply with the law of  spending four percent of the gross national product on education,”  Diomedes Mercedes, an attorney, told IPS. “So on the fourth of each  month, at four p.m., we are going to stand here in front of the  Palace to remind them that the people want this. We will be here  until they fulfill their promise. We have been here every month since  January. Last year, we gathered every month until November. ”

“There are too many people here who do not have access to education,”  he said. “And even for the ones that do have access, much is missing.  We have been fighting for three years for a decent level of  development here in this country.”

Many of the organisers and civic groups behind this action came  together two years ago to fight the government’s plans to grant a  lease within the national park on the Samana peninsula, Los Haitiese,  to a private local company to produce cement. The group that came  together represented both young and old, and crossed educational and  class lines. Many who participated said that they had never before  seen a similar convergence.

In the end, the cement factory was defeated but the coalition  remained in place.

Mercedes was part of the protest that saved Los Haitisese.

“We have a certain authority in the country now,” he said. “And we  are putting it to the service of the cause of education, which is not  only a law but also something that is necessary for our development.  We believe that we will be successful because we are expressing a  national sentiment. Polls have shown that 94 percent of the people in  this country support the four percent.”

The president of one of the major organising civic groups “Toy Harto  pero Creo en Mi Pais” (I am fed up but I believe in my country),  Elizabeth Mateo Perez, is a former student leader and attorney who  worked for the Supreme Court.

Behind the public face of the protests, Toy Harto is pressing a  lawsuit with 1,078 named defendants – including the entire Senate and  Congress – for failing to comply with the law requiring four percent  for education when they passed the latest budget.

Standing under a bright yellow “4 percent” umbrella in the light  drizzle, Perez explained why the increase in the budget is needed.

“We are missing 11,000 classrooms, [and] many of the classrooms which  we do have are overcrowded,” she told IPS. “We need 75,000 new  teachers. There is no programme for any sort of preschool education.  There is not even room for the five to seven-year-olds who wish to  enter the system. Autistic, disabled, and Downs syndrome children,  are now completely outside the system.

“A teacher must work three shifts to provide a basic living for her  family,” Perez added. “We have had studies done by economists which  show that 30 percent of the federal budget is spent in excess. That  is in an excess of ministers, an excess of benefits for them, and to  corruption. This is the money that should be spent on education.”

Dominican schools are divided now into three shifts of four hours  each. Students attend schools only four hours per day. An elementary  school teacher receives a base salary of 268 dollars per month, which  does not cover the “canasta basica”, or basket of goods, at the  lowest level of poverty which is 276 dollars.

The “canasta basica” is a measure released by the Central Bank  indexed on 350 items which comprise 90 percent of the living costs  for a family of four. The middle class cost of living is pegged at  609 dollars. A teacher who works two sessions will have eight hours  of class a day and only earn 596 dollars.

The government will start debating the 2012 budget in October.

Asked if she thought that the coalition would succeed, Perez said, “I  believe we will. We have assembled the largest coalition of civic  groups that this country has seen in 20 years. And we have the people  behind us.”


Dominican Republic is among the worst countries in Latin American and Caribbean when it comes to spending money on education. This is a well planed strategic by President Leonel which ensures, that only the rich families keeps prospering and can share the country’s  resources between them. By not giving access to education the only chance of a bright future with money is to be corrupt or join one of the world’s most corrupt governments.

Category: DR News |

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Last updated October 22, 2016 at 2:00 PM
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