In Bolivia, infrastructure is crucial for quality education

September 11, 2013


Sudents of Jaime Escalante School in Boliva playing soccer.

World Bank

  • Seven schools with more than 6,000 students in marginal urban areas of La Paz have benefitted from infrastructural improvements.
  • Rehabilitating school facilities has had a positive impact on enrolment since students feel safer and no longer have to transfer to schools farther away.
  • The Transformation of Secondary Education Project also supported the establishment of management teams to implement education plans that benefited nearly 80,000 students.

It may be taken for granted in many countries, but a solid infrastructure that meets the needs of students makes a world of difference in terms of offering a quality education. At least it does for Miriam Chipana, a student at the Jaime Escalante School, located in the Cotahuma neighborhood of La Paz: “It is the best school in the area since we have our own field, a computer room, better bathrooms; everything is bigger and with more light.”

Odón Willy Barrientos, leader of the local neighborhood association, father and former student of the Luis Espinal School in the Pasankeri neighborhood, could not agree more: “It is a momentous change; 30 years ago, we sat in adobe chairs and brought wooden planks to use as writing desks. The new infrastructure encourages students to move forward.”

Both schools were remodeled as part of the Transformation of Secondary School Project (Protes) funded by the World Bank, which is implemented in peri-urban areas of La Paz. The program included the construction of four schools and the remodeling of another three, for a total of 137 classrooms serving more than 6,000 students.

All of these schools are in operation, with new sanitation facilities, administrative offices, furniture, computer equipment and virtual laboratories. This is in addition to the construction and equipping of 95 classrooms in 12 schools.

 “All of this has resulted in better quality, but also an increase in coverage,” says Patricia Álvarez, World Bank specialist and project manager. Freddy Mamani, the principal at Luis Espinal School, confirms an increase in school enrolment: “Enrolment has risen, as has attendance in each class, so we are operating at full capacity.”

Quality infrastructure, better education

The new buildings have helped improve the safety of students, who no longer have to travel to schools further away. This also enables families to save on transportation costs and makes it possible for teachers to meet with parents in a nicer environment.

“This school is safer because it is protected by the neighbors,” says Mario Joaquín Maquera, a student at Jaime Escalante School.

In addition, the Incentives for At-risk Students Program enrolled a record 10,000 students during the period 2009-2011, who benefited from a quality education. This figure nearly doubled the initial target of 5,300 enrolled students.

Besides better infrastructure and support to give opportunities to more students, education management teams composed of school principals, teachers and school boards implemented 92 education plans that benefitted 79,780 students, 4,796 principals and teachers and 429 parents. Education plans are designed to improve education quality through the acquisition of tools that support work in the classroom.

Taking care of school facilities

Another key aspect is to take care of the new infrastructure. To this end, a change in attitudes and behaviors is needed, which begins with the family. In addition, civic values that promote peaceful co-existence and respect must be rescued.

To this end, over 85,000 secondary school students participated in dialogues and classroom projects associated with the topics of multiculturalism, gender, citizen security, human rights, citizenship and comprehensive sexuality.

“Expanding the coverage and quality of school education in Bolivia includes interventions in infrastructure. For the World Bank, education is a priority because human development is one of the pillars of the World Bank’s Strategic Partnership with this country for the period 2012-2015,” says the World Bank Representative in Bolivia, Faris Hadad-Zervos.