A Hope for Education in Brazil: Issues faced by Venezuelan Refugee Children

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As of June 2019, the UNHCR and the International Organization of Migration announced that the number of Venezuelan refugees reached 4 million, with approximately 168,000 of those being hosted in Brazil. Specific numbers of age groups are unknown, but on a global scale, over half of the refugees worldwide are children, so it can be expected that many refugees in Brazil are children. 

According to the UN, the term “child” refers to “a human being below the age of 18.” It is important to note that these children are not a homogeneous group. Venezuelan migrant children may leave Venezuela and arrive to Brazil with their parents, other relatives or unaccompanied. Those who arrive unaccompanied are in an especially vulnerable position, often facing barriers to social services. Aside from the standard social issues of leaving their home-country, family, and friends, they face problems in relation to their education, which can be bureaucratic or pertain to differences in educational standards. This issue has been addressed in the state of Roraima, Brazil’s northernmost state. 

According to a report retrieved by the Thomas Reuters Foundation, of the 1,000+ Venezuelan children whom arrived at the entry point of Paracaima (Roraima) in the last five months of 2018, approximately 52% of them were either without parents or without proper documentation, giving a small glimpse into what the situation for these immigrants is like. 

However, the Brazilian government has been taking steps to help relieve this problem. The Ministry of Education, along with other educational actors in the state of Roraima, has implemented a process to assist the level of refugee children attending school in the region. Children take a mock test, which, along with their age, allows their educational level to be identified, so they can be put in the appropriate grade level. These tests help to standardize the children’s documentation, leading them to be able to register in Roraima, or then being able to transfer to other states. According to 

Leila Perussolo, the state’s education secretary, 6460 Venezuelan school-aged children are enrolled for the year of 2019.

Despite this progress, there are still issues.  One problem is the lack of space in Brazilian public schools. In the municipality of Pacaraima, Roraima, about 700 children do not have a school in which they are enrolled. Even for students who can get a place at a school, it is not always possible for them to attend. Many children in Boa Vista, for example, cannot go due to the lack of free public transportation. Their parents are often unable to pay the bus ticket, and as a result, the children cannot attend classes.

There are many challenges for both the Venezuelan refugees  and the Brazilian government. Educational services are a critical factor in integrating young immigrants and can cause negative consequences if not addressed properly.  Brazil is still figuring out how to serve the school-aged population from Venezuela, with the state of Roraima leading the way. 

Sources:

  • Refugees, U. (2019). Refugees and migrants from Venezuela top 4 million: UNHCR and IOM. Retrieved from https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2019/6/5cfa2a4a4/refugees-migrants-venezuela-top-4-million-unhcr-iom.html 
  •  OHCHR | Convention on the Rights of the Child. (1989). Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx
  •  Innocenti, U. (2019). Migration and Children. Retrieved from https://www.unicef-irc.org/article/606-migration-and-children.html 
  • Lack of papers endangers Venezuelan children in Brazil. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-trafficking-venezuela/lack-of-papers-endangers-venezuelan-children-in-brazil-idUSKCN1P92XV 
  •  Venezuelanos – Ministério da Educação. (2019). Retrieved from http://portal.mec.gov.br/component/tags/tag/49391
  • Venezuelanos – Ministério da Educação. (2019). Retrieved from http://portal.mec.gov.br/component/tags/tag/49391
  • La difícil vida de los niños y adolescentes venezolanos en el norte de Brasil. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-48704762

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