At least 10 per cent of children in Paraguay do not have access to education. Extreme poverty, particularly in rural areas, means families cannot afford schooling and instead many send their children to work at an early age to supplement income.
Statistics show that 15 per cent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 are in work. The jobs – in mines, factories, and construction or private homes – are labour intensive. The children work long hours and are prevented from going to school.
In Paraguay, the literacy rate for the 15 to 24 age group in the general population was 98 per cent in 2009, but only 60 per cent for the indigenous population. This gap between rich and poor, urban and rural is reflected in the country’s huge digital divide whereby the richer urban population has access to information through technology and the internet, and the indigenous population is left far behind.
Civil society groups have been working to increase the country’s digital literacy in order to democratise access to knowledge, particularly for Paraguay’s poor and uneducated.
Paraguay Educa is a non-profit organisation specialising in technology and innovation in education. It has been working since 2008 for digital inclusion with a clear child focus that has had a strong impact at a local level in Caacupé and at a national level.
Paraguay Educa works with families and schools to ensure every child has a computer. It also trains teachers, families and children in computer maintenance and internet literacy.
The organisation runs a centre that puts on events, courses and workshops for free to ensure digital inclusion of the whole community. Through its One Laptop Per Child programme, Paraguay Educa created a pilot programme that would serve as a pedagogical model and can easily be replicated on a national level.
In 2015, 77 courses and five community events took place in the centre in partnership with universities, private companies and the public sector aimed at improving services for the community. The courses included robotics, financial education, graphic design, coding and programming, among others.
Paraguay Educa reached 13,566 beneficiaries with the One Laptop Per Child model in 2015.
Photo: Santi Carneri