Education as an Opportunity for Integration: Assessing Colombia, Peru, and Chile's Educational Responses to the Venezuelan Migration Crisis
Katharine Summers, Jessica Crist, and Bernhard Streitwieser
March 30, 2022
With over 5 million Venezuelans fleeing their home country, Latin America is facing the largest migration crisis in its history. Colombia, Peru, and Chile host the largest numbers of Venezuelan migrants in the region. Each country has responded differently to the crisis in terms of the provision of education. Venezuelan migrants attempting to enter the primary, secondary, and higher education systems encounter a variety of barriers, from struggles with documentation to limited availability of spaces in schools to cultural barriers and xenophobia.
This paper examines the distinct educational policy responses to Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, Peru, and Chile. It begins by contextualizing the current crisis through a sociopolitical and economic analysis of the origins of the Venezuelan migration phenomenon. Venezuelans are not officially and legally recognized as refugees by the UNHCR. Refugee status is considered on a case-by-case basis at the country level. The regional coordinating bodies tasked with promoting safe, orderly, and legal migration of Venezuelans to host countries have given uneven attention to education.
This paper examines each country’s response to Venezuelan migrants from a human rights perspective. It provides sociopolitical context and discusses the specific educational offerings from the primary to tertiary levels in Colombia, Peru, and Chile. It considers alternative or flexible education models, second shift schools, access to school transportation and feeding programs, and teacher training opportunities that cater to the growing migrant population. It explores barriers to entry into the educational system, including documentation challenges due to legal and enrollment requirements, constraints on the host countries’ education systems, and discrimination due to lack of intercultural training and xenophobia. It also discusses challenges related to the quality of the educational opportunities for Venezuelan migrant children, and the specific needs of these children.
This paper considers several ideas to protect Venezuelan migrants’ rights to an education and to strengthen their integration. Finally, it offers recommendations on sustainable education solutions for Venezuelan migrants at all levels in the three countries. These recommendations include improving information sharing, addressing structural bottlenecks to school enrollment, and expanding pathways (existing and complementary) to higher education.