May 30, 2023


Inhabitants of Valle del Cauca (Colombia), in 2021.
Inhabitants of Valle del Cauca (Colombia), in 2021.Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Five years ago the World Bank published the report Afro-descendants in Latin America: towards an inclusive framework, which evidenced the ethnic and racial component of poverty and inequality in the region. Along the same lines, this Tuesday the organization published a new report on racism, this time in the education of children and young people. Afro-descendant inclusion in education: an anti-racist agenda for Latin America shows that the 34 million Afro children and youth have fewer academic opportunities, receive a lower quality education, and are more likely to drop out of school than the rest of Latin Americans.

According to the report, almost one in five Afro children drop out of the educational system before reaching secondary education, double the Latin American average. And only two-thirds of Afro young people who start secondary education manage to complete it, compared to three-quarters of white people.

Many of these difficulties lie in limited access to digital technologies. Access to computers by Afro-descendants is low in all the countries in the region. In countries like Peru and Colombia, only one in six have a computer at home, half the proportion of non-racialized people (which is already a low percentage). In addition, Afro children and youth who manage to continue in school generally attend educational centers with deficient facilities, low quality of education or with overloaded or low-qualified teachers, which has a negative impact on their education.

Added to these obstacles is the low representation of Afro people in decision-making or leadership positions and their overrepresentation in contexts of poverty, since they represent around half of those who live in extreme poverty in Latin America when they are barely a quarter of the total. of the region’s population. For the World Bank, the lack of positive representation could be related, along with other factors, to high dropout rates, which in turn has resulted in few Afro-descendant people taking on roles within the education sector.

The discouraging panorama for Afro-descendants extends after high school: despite representing a quarter of the region’s population aged 25 or over, they represent only 12% of those who obtain a postgraduate degree. And in the labor market, the barriers remain: Afro-descendants tend to earn lower salaries than the average, even if they have the same training and experience. The situation is even worse for Afro women, since according to the report they earn less than white women and Afro men, even if they have a higher educational level.

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The importance of moving towards ethnoracial education

Under the premise that “education is the main tool that Afro-descendant households have to get out of poverty”, the multinational organization includes a series of political proposals, recommendations and a toolbox to apply them. Among these, the integration of African and Afro-descendant culture and history in the curricula is recommended, a measure that has already been gradually implemented in countries such as Brazil and in some Colombian cities.

Among the provisions, it is suggested to train teachers and principals in ethno-racial inclusion, which according to research has been one of the great challenges, since principals do not usually consider it important. The World Bank also consigns conclusions and reflections for the fight against discrimination, such as promoting ethno-racial policies with clear goals, budgets and financing, or designing racially inclusive school textbooks that confront discriminatory discourses. The Bank’s conclusions point to structural challenges. They argue that it is necessary for governments to address the socioeconomic disparities that affect the Afro-descendant population: despite the fact that in the last two decades steps have been taken to promote an anti-racist legal agenda in the region, there are still great challenges that require commitment of all actors in society.

“Education is the main tool that Afro-descendant households have to get out of poverty. Harnessing the potential of education depends on countries removing the barriers that keep Afro-descendant children and youth out of school. A crucial step to advance inclusion in education is to recognize and address the factors that cause and perpetuate exclusion. concludes the investigation.

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