Argentina faced an education crisis long before the COVID-19 pandemic, as demonstrated by the 2018 results of the Program for International Student Assessment, which showed that the quality of the country’s education system ranked 68th among 77 nations. COVID exposed and exacerbated these problems. School closures caused by the pandemic affected young people unequally, with the greatest impact on those living in marginalised communities, who had limited access to personal computers, smart phones and the Internet, or whose families could not provide adequate financial or academic support. School dropout rates, which were already high, also increased because of COVID. Argentina currently has one of the highest dropout rates in Latin America, with 1 out of every 2 young people dropping out of high school. The main causes for this include young people’s need to find a job to help their families make ends meet, financial challenges that make it impossible for them to acquire the necessary school supplies or cover transportation costs, and their lack of interest in school.
Finishing secondary school and receiving a high-quality education is important not only because it allows young people to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to lead fulfilling lives, but also because it prepares them to be successful in the labour market, thus breaking the cycle of poverty and the mechanisms that reproduce inequality. Unfortunately, COVID –coupled with the governments’ chronic mismanagement of the economy– led to an increase in unemployment rates, which spiked to 13% according to official data (28% when counting the 2.5 million people who left the formal job market entirely). The unemployment rate for young people is much higher—23% for young men and 29% for young women.
Cimientos was established in 1997 by a group of professionals seeking to increase educational opportunities in Argentina. Since then, the organisation has focused on strengthening public schools and implementing programs to prevent dropout among high-risk student populations. To date, Cimientos has served more than 50,000 students in more than 500 schools in Argentina, earning recognition for its work from the Argentine Ministry of Education and the Inter-American Development Bank, among others. The organisation operates with a budget of approximately $2.3 million and is funded primarily by international donors, private individuals and corporate sector foundations.
Cimientos’ management and programmatic team is comprised of 29 highly committed professionals, including one young person under the age of 25. In addition, Cimientos enlists the help of 98 volunteers –21 of which are young people– who collaborate with programmatic staff to provide free academic support to the young people that participate in the organisation’s education program. Cimientos has a committed and well-connected Board composed of 17 directors, half of which are women.
EMpower’s first grant to Cimientos will help the organisation (1) support the expansion of Cimientos’ Future Graduates programme, which empowers marginalised young people to develop the skills and abilities they need to improve their academic performance and graduate from high school, (2) support a group of 45 young people between the ages of 16 and 18 (51% female, 49% male) strengthen their core life skills, improve their academic performance, develop life plans, and successfully graduate from high school, (3) review the socioeconomic background of program participants to guarantee that the organisation reaches young people with the greatest needs, (4) provide monthly financial support to cover participants' transportation expenses, help them purchase school materials and guarantee that they have adequate Internet connection, (5) support an additional 80 marginalised young people between the ages of 18 and 24 (88% female, 12% male) who recently graduated from Cimientos’ programme and finished high school to access job training opportunities.
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