Crisis after crisis, UCA Managua forges on

For over two years—since April 2018—Nicaragua has faced serious social and civil unrest. What started as peaceful protests in response to a planned overhaul of the social security system quickly escalated, as the government violently cracked down on the student-led protests. As a result, and in light of the government’s ongoing human rights violations, calls for an equitable social safety net turned into demands for justice. As tensions continued to rise, Central American University (UCA) Managua, a Jesuit institution in Managua, became one of the key meeting points for students and protesters to come together.

Two years on, UCA Managua continues to be one of the main allies of civilians in this fight. At the time, though, the lengths that the university went to support of the Nicaraguan people were nothing short of extraordinary. Shortly after the protests began in April 2018, the university put all their resources to use. They made their people’s defense law firm and their center for psychological development available to all who needed assistance; from political prisoners, to their families, to the families of those who had been assassinated. The university repeatedly denounced the injustices and human rights violations faced by Nicaraguans, both domestically and abroad, becoming one of the main intermediaries and representatives in collaborations with international organisms such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

However, these efforts to protect and defend the rights of the people in their community came at a cost. UCA Managua quickly turned into an enemy, in the eyes of the government, causing multiple repercussions for the university and its members. Staff and students were prosecuted and the university suffered public funding budget cuts, as well as roadblocks in carrying out basic administrative processes.

To ensure the safety of its students and community, the university decided to close down its campus for the remainder of 2018 and continue education online, unfortunately with a smaller course offering due to the availability of resources.

In 2019, as protests slowed down, the university decided to reopen its doors with a mix of online and in-person classes. Students felt safe and supported by the university, which led it to once again becoming a meeting place for smaller protests, where police chose not to enter, but still surrounded the campus, searched students as they entered and in some cases carried out arrests.

With the start of 2019, another challenge emerged. The aforementioned budget cuts increased the difficulties of maintaining programs and providing scholarships to students. Before the crisis started in 2018, UCA Managua offered at least 1,000 scholarships for new students every year. These full-ride scholarships were intended to support students throughout their entire academic careers, provided they maintained good grades. Today, the university is not able to provide the same 1,000 scholarships and cannot guarantee funding for a student’s entire academic career. The student body has dropped to 6,000—down from 8,500 in 2018—mainly due to the economic and safety challenges for students to remain in Managua, as well as continue paying for their education. Even with the many challenges they face, UCA Managua is not planning on standing down, they are committed to their students and their community.

In 2020, Nicaragua is experiencing yet another crisis. With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing on changes and uncertainty to many at a global level, the government in Nicaragua refuses to acknowledge the crisis, downplaying its effects and impact on the population. It is hard to gain access to real and quality information, there are no safety measures in place to protect citizens, tests are scarce, and deaths are never ruled as a result of COVID-19.

Yet again, UCA Managua has taken an active role, denouncing the actions of the government, remaining committed to their beliefs, fighting for the people in their community, and providing assistance wherever possible. The campus closed as soon as the first COVID-19 case was reported and, to date, it is the only university campus in the National University Council that has completely closed its doors and moved to online classes. The institution is prepared to face the another round of repercussions from the State, just as they have done since 2018.

The people of Nicaragua have had a challenging past two years and UCA Managua has played a central role in managing, adapting, and denouncing the injustices faced by the community at a national and international level.

UCA Managua will continue to work tirelessly to overcome these crises under the leadership of Rev. José Alberto “Chepe” Idiaquez, S.J, who was honored by Seattle University last year for his work at the university, and is supported by many others who believe it is their responsibility to fight for the rights of the people of Nicaragua.

Magis Americas and UCA Managua are partners creating a more just and equitable Nicaragua. We work to increase and strengthen the community of donors committed to UCA Managua, in order to finance social projects such as student scholarships, social clinics for community service and support of different organizations that are part of the community.

National mobilization for education financing at the Dakar Summit

Diseño sin título (5)

Last Friday, February 2nd, the Financing Conference of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) ended in Dakar, a high level meeting whose aim was to mobilize funds to strengthen the education systems of developing countries, so that in 2030 all children have the right to a quality early childhood, primary and secondary education. The Dakar Summit was the first of its kind organized together with a donor country member of the G7, France, and a developing country, Senegal. It was also the first to bring together ten Heads of State, three ex Heads of State and more than a hundred Secretaries of State, who have demonstrated their commitment to education.

The Dakar Summit has fulfilled all expectations, both in terms of participation – with more than 1,200 participants, including leaders from UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Bank, civil society, and the private sector, in addition to the singer Rihanna, who is a global ambassador for the GPE – as well as in terms of economic commitment: donors have committed to contributing to the GPE with 2,3 billion dollars (1,86 billion euros) between 2018 and 2020, though the greatest effort is that 50 developing countries have announced an increase in their public spending on this matter until 20% of their respective budgets is achieved or exceeded, which represents 110 million dollars until 2020, compared to 80 million in the previous period.

Macky Sall, president of the host country, Senegal, had a decisive leadership role and pledged to increase the proportion of spending on education to 25% and also contributed $2 million USD to the replenishment fund. Senegal has become the first partner of a developing country that contributes to the fund, demonstrating its dedication to improving education nationally and globally.

The most important commitments of the Conference were those of the developing countries, which amounted to approximately $30 billion USD in new funds. The contributions of the EU, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway were also meaningful. The amount pledged by these countries reached almost 1,8 million dollars. The total pledged amount of the donor countries for this replenishment period was just over 2 million dollars. This figure is well above what was promised in 2014.

Likewise, the International Federation of Fe y Alegría and six national offices around the world have mobilized to demand political responsibility with education financing prior to the Dakar Summit in different forums and through several public action activities.

Fe y Alegría Honduras posted on social networks the motto: ¡Financien lo justo! For free public education for all before and during the Forum and as a part of the national coalition in Honduras that participated in the Summit as a part of the CLADE Delegation.

Fe y Alegría Bolivia as part of the Bolivian Campaign for the Right to Education raised their demands for greater financing and investment in education through the statement: “For quality, inclusive, equitable education, and lifelong learning opportunities for all: CALL TO ACTION,” which included the following demands: 1) Improve the quality of education of the Plurinational Educational System, 2) Necessary and relevant Information Systems, 3) Better financing and investment in education, 4) Development of inter-sectoral policies, plans and legislation, 5) Consolidation of community social participation in education.

In Nicaragua, Fe y Alegría mobilized in coordination with the organizations that make up the Forum for Education and Human Development of the Initiative for Nicaragua (FEDH-IPN), as well as with the organizations that form part of the Popular Education Council of Latin America and the Caribbean (CEAAL). They approached the President of the Nation, they organized a public event and they helped each other in social networks by spreading their messages for the financing of education.

Fe y Alegría Dominican Republic is a member of the Social Education Forum (FSE) which has been active in the campaign. The Forum had presence in Dakar through a representative of the coalition integrated by the Latin American Campaign for the right to education (CLADE).

Entreculturas (Fe y Alegría Spain), member of the Spanish Coalition of the Global Campaign for Education, carried out social media activity about the replenishment event, using and adapting the material received from abroad and they have set meetings and sent letters to political representatives to ensure their presence and commitment at the Summit.

Likewise, Fe y Alegría USA joined the campaign sharing the letter to congressmen and women developed under the scope of the Global Campaign for Education-US and with the sharing of messages on social networks.

Foi et Joie Haïti coordinated with the Reunification of Education for All (REPT) and sent an open letter to Prime Minister M. Jacques Guy Lafontant and spread messages on social networks.

Following the Dakar Summit, all of these and other organizations for the right to education of the Society of Jesus are committed to monitoring the pledges over the next three years. We need to see these funds reach where they are most needed, and ensure that they are spent in a sensible manner and to promote inclusion, equity and quality in public education systems.

Original Post via Edujesuit

Tax Justice needed to achieve educational justice

©Angela WellsJRS

Today, educational leaders from governments around the world are meeting in Dakar, Senegal, to commit the necessary funding for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). But what is the GPE? It is a multilateral fund that brings together countries from the South, donors, the private sector and civil society to mobilize funds to improve the quality and access to education in developing countries.

The goal of this meeting is for donors to commit to contributing $3.1 billion for educational policies in at least 65 developing countries. It is expected that many governments of lower income countries will also comply with the commitment to increase domestic funding for education.

Ensuring greater and better basic education, ending illiteracy, increasing the number of teachers and dignifying their profession are challenges that must be addressed together and require comprehensive responses.

Civil society demands that developing countries commit at least 20% of national budgets to education. However, in countries with low or very low incomes, this means an investment well below that necessary to guarantee the right to education for all people.

How can we increase the available income in a sustainable manner so that the governments of the most impoverished countries invest what is necessary in education? A measure as urgent as it is inescapable is the development of fair internal and global fiscal policies. Action Aid estimates that governments in developing countries lose at least $100 billion each year due to dubious tax practices by multinational companies. This international organization estimates that developing countries “give away” more than $138 billion each year in harmful tax incentives, even though research shows that securing such incentives is near the bottom of the list of criteria companies use to choose where to invest.

Investing more in education is the first step that must be taken to achieve educational justice, but it is not enough. The solution is to invest MORE and BETTER. Investing better means that governments are more thoughtful when setting priorities. We cannot achieve educational justice without equity, which is why governments have an obligation to allocate resources to the groups that are most disadvantaged and need them the most, such as girls, people with special needs or indigenous groups.

On the other hand, guaranteeing access is the first necessary step, but the quality gap in education continues to grow and educational inequality between countries and within the same countries is a scourge that must be addressed urgently. Governments must allocate resources to improve quality and that means teacher training, better pedagogical tools and practices, curricular adaptations, …

Therefore, increased investment and improvement through the prioritization of groups and educational stages is needed to meet equity criteria and investment in improving quality.

The Global Partnership for Education that is taking place this week in Dakar and will set funding commitments for the next three years, can play a key role in supporting governments and donors to get involved in the fight for educational justice that can only be achieved if it first ensures a fair redistribution of wealth through fair fiscal policies.