From Being Excluded to Becoming a Triumpher: Higher Education Massification Policies in Venezuela and Their Biographical Meaning

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: Booth 60
Oral Presentation
Jesus Humberto PINEDA OLIVIERI , University of Goettingen, Germany

In 2003 the Venezuelan government started to implement a variety of social programs known as “Bolivarian Missions”. These Missions addressed a variety of social problems that the traditional systems of education, health and social services had failed to overcome. The creation of these programs rapidly became one of the distinctive symbols of the new revolutionary government and the promise of a better life for the poor and excluded groups. In the education sector, different “Bolivarian Missions” offered literacy programs, basic education, high school and higher education for all. Over the years, these educational programs have been strongly linked to the political legitimation and support of the government by those who have perceived the missions as a benefit. Official reports claim to have solved a historical debt with some marginalized groups of the country, which has shaped the lives of those who have been recently included to both the education system and the Venezuelan society as a whole. This article seeks to explore how this process of inclusion has been experienced by those who have been educated, which represents an important gap in the literature that deals with the Venezuelan case. Moreover, I will show how the official discourse has transcended into the memories of those who once felt excluded and now feel like triumphers, consistent with the public discourse around the existence of the so-called “Mission Sucre”. This work is based on two case reconstructions of the life stories of two higher education students who are currently enrolled at two of the many “Aldeas Universitarias” that operate throughout the country’s regions. This work is based on biographical-narrative interviews (following Rosenthal) and ethnographic observations that I conducted for my ongoing doctoral thesis.