Four out of every 100 students in Esmeraldas left their studies between 2021 and 2022. Violence and the action of criminal gangs is one of the main causes.
Dropping out of school is perhaps one of the most serious consequences of the high levels of violence in Esmeraldas: four out of every 100 children and adolescents dropped out of school during the last school term.
The undersecretary for Educational Innovation, Diana Castellanos, recognizes that violence is one of the main causes that push students to abandon their studies.
“We have had cases of eight- and nine-year-old children who have been recruited by criminal gangs. But most of them are teenagers over 12 years old,” she adds.
Castellanos also explained that many of these children and adolescents join criminal networks because they are relatives of members of criminal gangs.
In the investigations carried out by the Ministry of Education in that province, two other reasons have also been identified that cause student desertion:
- The National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC) indicates that only two out of 10 Esmeraldeans have a suitable job, with which they earn the basic salary of $425 per month. “This forces many children to leave school to work and help their parents,” says Castellanos.
- Teenage pregnancy. The birth rate in girls from Esmeraldas, who became pregnant, between the ages of 10 and 14, is one of the highest in the country.
- According to the INEC, there are 3.87 births in this age group per 1,000 pregnancies. The national rate is only 2.2%.
- The rate in adolescents between 15 and 19 years old is 68.4%. The Ministry of Education maintains that these young women leave their studies to look for a job that allows them to survive.
Lucía Sosa, mayor of the city of Esmeraldas, adds another cause: the closure of rural schools during the government of Rafael Correa.
“Hundreds of students stopped attending their schools because they had to walk 10, 15 or 20 kilometers. Many of those children now work or are part of criminal gangs.”
To try to stop this problem, Sosa is asking the Government to reopen these educational institutions.
The Police, the Ministry of Education and the Government of Esmeraldas implemented the ‘Safe Schools’ plan.
The three institutions chose 16 schools and colleges, which are in sectors considered conflictive, to have constant police presence.
Castellanos explained that this measure seeks to prevent criminal gangs from approaching educational establishments to capture students.
“In addition, we want to have a quick response to any possible threat that students may suffer.”
She says that the program is replicated in another 220 schools in provinces such as Guayas, Manabí and Sucumbíos, which also register high levels of violence.
Esmeraldas province has a school dropout rate of 3.81%, the second highest in the country, only behind Morona Santiago.
Data from the Ministry of Education also show that the dropout rate in the border province is the highest in the last five years.
Since the 2015-2016 school year, the student drop-out rate showed a constant fall that reached its lowest level in the 2020-2021 cycle, when that indicator was 2.5%.
However, in the 2021-2022 period, it increased to a rate of 3.81%.
This figure is worrying for educational authorities, considering that, for example, in provinces such as Galapagos and Santa Elena, dropout rates are less than 1%.
Statistics show an 8% rate of young people by the age of 20 joining a gang in the U.S.