Skip to main content

Paraguayan Education is the Pits

Yesterday was one of those days where the weight of poverty was almost too much for me to handle. Our neighbor called us informing that her son Samuel had fallen at school and broken his leg. She went to the state hospital an hour away and they took X-rays and confirmed that the child would need a surgery with pins and plates! She left without one penny in her pocket and she asked if we could help pay the X-ray. I told her NOT to okay the surgery without a second opinion.

Since the accident took place at school, surely the school would take the responsibility for paying the medical bills. After calling the superintendent and having to talk to three different people, she told me that no such funds existed, the schools have no medical insurance for their students and to go personally to talk to the school principal because there is no phone in the school.

So, I went to visit the school principal. At first, she was on the defensive. "Impossible" was her response to helping this poor boy. She showed me her classrooms and said, "The government doesn't even give us chalk. Look at our chairs... We have 54 kids in this room and only the first ones to arrive get to sit down." I quickly counted 40 shabby looking chairs. Pathetic. No wonder why Paraguay is so impoverished, they invest nothing in their educational systems.I asked if they had a parent committee that might organize a bazaar to help pay for the boy's bills. She told me that it was a possibility but the committee hadn't been organized yet this year, even though we are 6 weeks into the school year.

I started getting really angry, not just at Paraguayan government, but at the general passivity of Paraguayans toward education. "This is the way things have always been. Nothing's going to change." This fatalistic attitude has pervaded even the way children think. The kids started following me around as I took pictures of their classrooms. They showed me their tables that were pieced together from scraps. They told me that they prefer to have class outside beside the classrooms are like ovens seven months out of the school year. My heart started to sink when I realized that if this is the future that we're creating for this beloved nation, there is little hope for improvement.Back to Samuel. I suspected that his simple fracture would not require surgery (that is another frustrating post about medical ignorance in Paraguay, but we won't go there today) and we took their family to a private hospital to get a second opinion. Sure enough, a good cast would do the job. The cost was 600,000 Guaranies ($120). It just so happened that Norberto had that money ready to pay our carpenter for our window frames. Here, you can't get treatment without paying first. So, we paid and waited and our friends were extremely grateful that their son didn't need pins and screws like the state doctor had said. We won one small battle, but the battle for education is a huge mountain to climb. Paraguay recently gave their teachers a standardized exam and 87% failed! Students only go to school 35 weeks/year, the lowest number of school days of any South American country. The government only spends 4.7% of the GDP on education. (Unesco and World Bank stats). Please pray for us as we seek God's guidance on how we can help. Something HAS to change.


  1. we are right there with you! do you have a doctor in your town?

  2. I certainly agree with your post for change. We have been shocked at the education system, and though I won't go into details (because we're trying to build a relationship with the teachers here), I, too, have said that there has to be some way to make a difference, even if it's just in our local school. It's really sad that this is their shot at education and (here's one of my many soapboxes on the system) most don't go past the elementary school level because they either can't afford to buy the required uniforms, or they can't afford to take the colectivo (city bus) to the school every day. I'll stop there. Frustrating and sad.

  3. Most of these happens due to the corruption that overwhlems paraguay and starts from the goverment , private institutions and even Itaipu which generates million and millions of dollars a year and considering the population of paraguay being a lilttle above 6 million habitants how is this kind of conditions possible in the education system .how do you change the passive mentality of paraguayans when their own goverment doesnt do anything to give them a reason to change? starting from their Education system.

  4. Its both shocking and puzzling to see the educational system in Paraguay. It seems like the people would pull together to change the system, I never quite understood what was going on.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

September highlights. A month in Paraguay

I want to thank you for hanging out with us this past month. Every day was different. Sometimes I wish I had more of a routine. But in my missionary role, routine is not something I experience very often. Here are a few September highlights.

We traveled to Asuncion, to get some paperwork done. The trip to Asuncion generally takes six hours on a two lane road, with crazy traffic. We avoid these trips as much as possible. 

I was part of a Baptism ceremony in the Parana River. 28 people made a public commitment. The Parana Rive is the second one in size after the Amazon River.

I had a chance to continue my bible teaching at our local church on Tuesday evenings. I fill in various classes and find teaching very rewarding.
We celebrated Anahi’s 6th birthday with our immediate family. Anahi is finishing her preschool and will start first great next year

We celebrated Dominick’s 4th month. He also got his shots last week. Dominick has occupied the center of attention. He has been a great joy for …

Technology in missions

As I started my day, within a few hours, I had a list of things to do. By 10 am I had enough items to keep me busy for a week. After several hours in the office, I was able to send audio messages and video conference with people on both side of the Equator. I sent letters out to several people in just a few seconds. I posted on FB, and I googled some maps while listening to a webinar.
Did my grandparents or even my parents have these technologies? The answer is no. David and Lilian Meier left on a steam ship the port of New Orleans in December of 1935 towards South America. All the field knowledge they had was a letter from a German missionary who wrote to America saying. Will someone come to Brazil?

That was the beginning. Their first trip lasted a decade serving in several places in South America. There where no phone calls, no daily FB updates and no cool Instagram pictures. Few words on a telegram, or when letters were written they delivered weeks later were the ways of communica…

A month in Paraguay, Come and hang out with us

Book fair – Freedom of expression
Its was the beginning of the 12th , annual book fair. This event is organized by a local university as one of its arms into the community. Publishers, book sellers and authors come to present their books. Until Sunday Sept 11th, kids, professors from different schools will come and visit plaza de armas (city square of weapons) in downtown Encarnacion to learn and interact. In parallel with the book fair, workshops are going on all day, dealing with topics as wide as social media, religion, politics, team work, biographies, and history.

Just to refresh our memory, until 1989 Paraguay had only two universities in the country. The country was governed by a dictator for 35 years. Freedom of expression could cost exile, jail or even death. That’s only about 30 years ago. Today there are 54 universities, but still only about 4% attending university. People are gaining their voice without fear of repression after two hundred years. You can imagine how these …