Argentina

Argentina: Scholarships help poor youth stay in school

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St. Giovanni Bosco and St. Domenico Savio Parish offers Educational Integration Scholarships program that helps youth from poor families gain an education

(MissionNewswire) The Salesian St. Giovanni Bosco and St. Domenico Savio Parish, located in Cordoba, Argentina, has been offering an Educational Integration Scholarships program since 2007 in collaboration with the BBVA Group. The goal is to support adolescents between 12 and 19 years old whose families have a low level of income and are unable to financially support their education. These scholarships ensure youth have a chance to gain an education and stay in school until completion.

Education can pose a dilemma for many poor youth. They need an education for upward economic mobility and the achievement of social equity, but in many places, they can not access a quality education due to the cost.

The Educational Integration Scholarships program addresses this inequality by providing financial assistance to young people in vulnerable situations so that they can continue their studies. Furthermore, it assigns each student a tutor who has the responsibility to provide direct support to the student.

Mariel is one of the volunteer tutors who offers student support through St. Giovanni Bosco and St. Domenico Savio Parish. Youth who attend this school support program come from the slums of El Tropezón. Mariel noted that some of the scholarship money is used to help youth purchase books, photocopies and school materials, as well as items for personal hygiene, snacks and transport costs to and from school.

“Aid in many ways is an incentive, especially for the older ones. Most of the purchases are made by the mothers, but the older ones organize themselves with their purchases, plan, calculate and analyze,” said Mariel.

This year, due to the pandemic and forced isolation, many families have been left without income. Children and youth have stopped attending school because of closures, so the scholarship funding was aimed mainly at the purchase of food for their survival during these challenging times.

Students have also struggled with getting their homework completed during the pandemic. Many of these youth and their families have relatively old phones that are shared among the whole family. The internet may reach them only intermittently, and many of them do not know how to handle computer programs or tools such as Word, Excel or Google Drive. This has made remote learning nearly impossible for some.

Salesian missionaries are working to address these challenges. Volunteers like Mariel have stepped up as well. She noted she is doing everything in her power to help children continue their studies. She keeps in touch with families by phone, pays attention to deadlines for reporting expenses, gives them the tools to do their homework and helps them.

Salesian programs across Argentina are primarily focused on education. Salesian primary and secondary education in the country prepares youth for technical, vocational or university studies. Other programs help meet the basic needs of poor youth and their families by providing shelter, proper nutrition and medical care, as well as helping youth to engage in their education and have hope for the future.

More than a quarter of the people in Argentina live in conditions of poverty with no formal employment and poor-quality education, according to the World Bank. The country’s high school dropout rate is close to 37 percent and youth account for a third of those unemployed. Almost 12 percent of children aged 5 to 17 are working instead of being in school and 20 percent need government assistance. Many face malnutrition, a lack of clean water and sewage, and inadequate housing.