Bolivian government to take over teacher hiring for church schools

Catholic church threatens to close its 1523 schools in protest

The Roman Catholic Church in Bolivia has threatened to close its 1523 schools and colleges after the Ministry of Education issued new guidelines on the hiring and deployment of teachers. On 16 March 2018 the Fides News Agency wrote the Catholic Bishops Conference had issued a statement following the announcement by the Ministry of Education that it will appoint teachers for the nation’s private Catholic schools.

The bishops stated that if the government goes through with its plan, they “cannot guarantee teaching, Christian education, and integral quality education.” More than 1,500 Catholic schools in Bolivia could be shut down to protest the change.

The new policy overturns the concordat between the Catholic Church and the state, which had guaranteed the freedom of church institutions from state control. Speaking on behalf of the Catholic Church, Prof. Carmen Suárez told Fides that she believed the government “intends to eliminate the private education system in Bolivia, and aims especially at the Catholic one”.

The Anglican Bishop of Bolivia, the Rt. Rev. Raphael Samuel, (pictured) told Anglican Ink that until 2006, Catholicism was the state religion of Bolivia. Twelve years ago “a new secular constitution was promulgated which recognised the place of indigenous people, their culture and their religions. The Roman church since then has seen its influence wane although its social institutions, because of its history, still carry enormous weight in Bolivian society.”

The Anglican Church would not be affected by the new rules, he said. Noting “We see the place for the teaching of indigenous culture and their religious beliefs in a pluralistic society as a whole or in government schools for the purpose of increasing mutual understanding and respect between adherents of different religiones.”  

Our prayer is that attempts to teach indigenous culture and religions in private schools will not undermine the freedom of religious belief which is enshrined in the constitution,” the bishop said.

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