Skyrocketing costs of going back to school suffocate many families in Argentina

In General Pico, a medium-sized city in central Argentina, police officers in cars, on motorcycles and on foot, called to an attempted robbery a business day earlier, surrounded them. Inside was the suspect: a 13-year-old teen who wanted to steal a box of markers and some pencils. When they took her to the police station and her mother came to find her, the minor told them that she wanted to help her because she knew she did not have enough money to buy school supplies for her three daughters. While one part of Argentine society called him a thief, another part pointed to a family’s desperation due to the high cost of going back to school in a country mired in a severe economic crisis, where more than half the population sinks into poverty. Poverty as estimated by the Argentine Catholic University.

The ombudsman’s office of Buenos Aires province said in a report that school supply prices increased by 502% last year, almost twice the rate of inflation, which is 254.2% year-over-year. According to these figures, a family with two school-age children needs 233,000 pesos (about $200) to buy backpacks, materials and school clothes if they opt for the cheapest items. That’s more than the minimum wage of 180,000 pesos ($160) set for February.

teachers strike

Classes are supposed to start this Monday in Buenos Aires and seven other provinces, but it is unclear how many schools will operate normally. CTERA, one of Argentina’s largest teaching unions, has called for a strike. Others are putting it off until they know the outcome of wage negotiations with the government for 2024. If communication fails, the teacher will stop.

Argentina’s president, Javier Meili, wants to stop the new measures by force, declaring education an essential service, but unions have warned that, if he cuts the right to protest, they could face legal action against the national authorities. Will toughen the fight, as they have and the railways and health workers.

Miley is also up against provincial governors, demanding the immediate sending of suspended transfers into the National Teacher Incentive Fund (FONID) aimed at improving teacher pay in public and charter schools. In January, some provinces assumed the arrears from their own resources, but others warned that they could not do so and cut salaries by 10% (to which was added a loss of purchasing power of 20.6% due to the inflation registered in January. Is) .

“It is up to the nation to support some educational changes, to lead in some sense. There is a fund for infrastructure which has been closed. For increased working hours, unemployed. The phoneid stopped. Alberto Ciloni, Secretary of Culture and Education of Buenos Aires Province, condemned, saying, “A large number of programs were crushed, stopped.” The government responded that “there is no money” and that each district of the country Will have to make do with the money he has.

The only government relief measure so far is a bonus of 70,000 pesos ($64) for families with school-age children. More than seven million children are entitled to receive it, but it requires the presentation of a school certificate which some parents have not yet received. “They told me that to get the certificate they have to start classes and if they don’t pay the teachers I don’t know if they will be able to start classes,” says Nelida C., a mother of three and a part-time clerk at a bakery. ” In Bajo Flores, a poor neighborhood in the south of Buenos Aires. “We are going to recycle everything: school supplies, backpacks and dusters (white coats, mandatory in public primary schools in Argentina). The youngest was wearing his sister’s sneakers and they broke so I borrowed money to buy him new sneakers,” he added.

In many middle-class families, purchasing materials is less of a problem than paying for private schools. According to a report by consulting firm Focus Markets, prices have tripled in a year and are set to rise seven times by 2022. On average, monthly school fees will be 145,000 pesos (about $130) in March and monthly or bimonthly inflation-linked increases are expected. Fees in bilingual schools are two to four times higher than average.

In December, Guillermo R. decided to transfer his youngest son from the private school where his brother attended to a cheaper school because he knew he would not be able to afford it in 2024. Last year he had already added his work as a designer to a few jobs like at a healthcare company freelanceBut even this was not enough for them: they reduced their annual beach holidays from 15 days to just one week and eating out was reserved only for special days.

Guillermo still doesn’t know how his son will adjust to the new school, but he’s confident it will help that one of his best friends moved in with him. “Now we had nowhere else to cut, luckily we took the right decision,” he says, noting that prices have skyrocketed in the last two months. Your case is not ideal because changing schools is a last resort for most families. First, fees have stopped being paid, or are being partially paid: late payment affects one in five private schools today. The crisis is most felt in the free fall, in new registrations. The most uncertain return to school in recent years has become a nightmare for many families.

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