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The fight for education funding in the Dominican Republic

September 2012

Campaigners protest at a rallyAs British children go back to school this month to start another academic year, a different story continues to play out in the Dominican Republic.

On the fourth of every month, supporters and activists across the country turn out in their signature yellow garb to demand adequate  funding for the nation's schools.

They have been doing so for more than two years.

Poor government spending

The UK spends 12% of its budget on education; the Dominican Republic invests around 2%. It is one of the lowest levels in Latin America.

This is despite a law passed in 1997 decreeing that 4% of the country's GDP should be spent on schools.

The limited funding affects large numbers of the population; 13% of people over the age of 15 are illiterate.

'A lack of education'

'Every day, you see the things that happen because of a lack of education,' says Lucia Guzman Tejera, the director of San Martin de Porres, an oversubscribed school in a poor area of Santo Domingo, the country's capital.

'If you are educated, you get a better job, an income, a better life. An uneducated person is far more likely to become involved with crime.'

Corruption and bad governance are blamed for restricting the flow of allocated funds to the nation's schools.

Without the full funds promised by the 1997 law, schools are overcrowded and understaffed, children do not have enough books and pens for their studies and the next generation is denied the opportunity to improve their quality of life.

'We're sick and tired of the current situation,' Lucia continues. 'The need for change is obvious.'

People power

In 2010, Christian Aid partner Centro Montalvo helped establish the campaign, simply called '4% for education', with a modest grant of £10,000 from Christian Aid.

It calls for the government to divert the funds they have promised into education.

From a small-scale movement, the campaign has snowballed to become one of the largest public movements the Dominican Republic has ever seen – it is common to see 4% graffiti scrawled on walls, and taxis drive around the city carrying 4% stickers on their bumpers.

The campaign petitions for the law's implementation through national marches, awareness drives and meetings with government representatives.

Lucia believes that if the campaign were successful, the extra resources that would be spent on education would be 'transformational'.

'There would be lower class sizes and fewer children on the streets,' she states.

Signs of hope

Things could be set to change. Thanks to the continued work of the 4% campaign, every one of the presidential candidates in this year's elections included a promise to enforce the law in their manifestoes, although the new president has yet to act.

Manuel Bautista
11-year-old Manuel Bautista, a student at Lucia's school, neatly sums up the need for politicians to finally start to act: 'The campaign is so that all children have what they need to learn... we are the future.' 



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Our work in the Dominican Republic

Education campaign turns Dominican Republic yellow


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