Déclaration des universitaires du Venezuela sur la destruction des Universités par le gourvernement

Nos collègues en SSH au Venezuela ont publié une déclaration courageuse, et dangereuse, car ils peuvent être poursuivis par le gouvernement de ce pays, sur la situation de délabrement et même de quasi extinction des Universités au Venezuela. Ci-joint le lien sur la déclaration et une traduction en anglais. Rigas Arvanitis peut vous mettre en contact avec les collègues vénézuéliens au courant de cette initiative.

Lien vers la déclaration :

Traduction :


An essential diagnosis of the University in Venezuela

The University has been fundamental in the growth of human thought, ideas and civilising projects of all kinds. It is precisely for this reason that history shows the care with which different societies, especially those that have institutionalised public higher education with different levels of humanistic, scientific and technological articulation, look after their universities, regardless of the aims that guide their functioning at any given moment in history.

Venezuelan universities have contributed to the development of our country in the different spheres of our lives - health, engineering, history, culture, education, territory and economy, among many other possible spheres. Venezuelan universities are part of our history. It is no coincidence that the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) is 300 years old, the University of the Andes (ULA) is 236 years old, the University of Zulia (LUZ) is 130 years old, and the University of Carabobo (UC) is 129 years old. The children of many Venezuelan families, for generations, studied at our universities and became professionals in the different spheres of our daily lives, making the growth of Venezuela possible.

Today, however, the opposite is true in Venezuela. Beyond the internal responsibilities, which certainly exist, it is public and notorious that the government of Nicolás Maduro despises the universities, and condemns them, as never before in our history, to a deplorable state of marginalisation characterised by :

A suffocating limitation of financial resources in all budgets that does not guarantee the minimum required for them to function. The crushing of the salaries and wages of their staff, which are certainly the lowest in the world, not to mention the progressive and systematic extinction of social security at all levels. The elimination, in practice, of the essential student provisions and the slashing of scholarships destined for this sector. The total abandonment of the campus areas, now taken over by the common underworld, which is destroying them physically, in their laboratories, classrooms, libraries and computer equipment. A situation of impoverishment and degradation that is moving inertially towards their dissolution, whose immediate and probably most regrettable result is the loss of the talents of their faculty that are the most precious treasure of these institutions : salaries do not reach eight dollars per month in the case of the highest-ranking professors. It is common nowadays, on the one hand, to find university professors who have emigrated and are now carrying out their former teaching and scientific activities in Venezuela in institutions in other countries, and on the other hand, many professors who decide to change their professional activities away from academia in order to earn a better income. The emigration of university personnel, including administrative staff, to mainly developed countries is becoming the highest ever leak of our most precious national wealth accumulated over decades. Today, Venezuelan universities have practically stopped hiring new staff ; the faculty is ageing rapidly and has lost its social security and the conditions necessary for its academic work : it has become impossible to exchange with their peers in other countries ; it is very difficult to access up-to-date literature ; equipment has deteriorated and cannot be renewed ; access to electricity and internet services is very limited ; it is impossible to cover basic family needs such as food, health, housing, clothing and recreation, among others. There is massive migration of students and new professionals abroad. A large percentage of students who continue their studies plan to leave the country as soon as they graduate. Many students that still have not completed their studies planning to emigrate. A large number of students has dropped out and is forced to withdraw for socio-economic reasons, and there is also a loss of initial enrolment, i.e. students who have obtained an entry but finally do not enrol. The Venezuelan university thus loses the young talents indispensable for national development. The denial of resources for scientific research, in the university budget that is imposed by the government has made impossible all research activities such as participation in international scientific events, updating of equipment, academic exchange, training abroad, acquisition of technological services and of updated literature, subscriptions to databases, scientific journals and international research networks, and the strengthening of our scientific journals that today survive thanks to the meritorious work of their editors. All this has a negative impact on the production of knowledge and publications, essential for universities. In addition, the government, through a decision of the Supreme Court of Justice, has impeded a fundamental democratic requirement, the election of university authorities, despite the fact that university autonomy is enshrined both in the 1999 Constitution and in the Organic Law on Education. In the same way, through a decision of the National Electoral Council, the majority of trade unions and associations of professors, employees and workers have been prevented from holding elections. This has weakened higher management positions, that have not been replaced, thus announcing an institutional debacle and the university crisis. The original period for which the elected authorities were elected has expired by almost a decade. Over time, the rectorate teams have disintegrated due to resignation, illness or death of some of their members, which the government has taken advantage of to impose new authorities, using an old regulation of the National University Council (CNU) ; the CNU itself has been rendered ineffective with the approval of the current national constitution. Deans have also been unable to hold elections and are appointed by the university councils. Faculty representation in the faculty management committees, whose term ended many years ago, has not been renewed. The absence of any of their members should be replaced by deputy members, an option that has also been exhausted in many cases. Members of university governance and committees have thus been obliged to remain in office in order to sustain the institutions and prevent new interventions. This situation has significantly weakened the governance of the university, whose leadership cannot halt its progressive decline. Hence the urgency of renewing university leadership. The Venezuelan government stimulates the disappearance social sciences and humanities, when it establishes, contrary to the Law, 145 priority courses for 2021, supposedly related to the productive economy and the training needs of the Nation, denying the indispensable multidisciplinary notion that any productive project requires, where the historical, geographical, social and cultural visions are as important as the scientific and technical vision to guarantee its viability. This regressive government policy not only ignores the social sciences and humanities, but also the STM disciplines, which are fundamental for national development, and violates the academic autonomy guaranteed by the National Constitution.

The necessary university

Venezuela today needs universities committed to a future of scientific-technical production framed in the fundamental dimensions of today’s world : ecology, true democracy and humanism. The university that the country needs must be committed to society, to its collective interests, to the public and to the common good. It is this institution that must assume the social - public - responsibility of meeting social needs, expectations and values, responding in a critical and reflective manner to the new realities that generate global challenges, contexts and values.

The university must be conceived not only as an educational, but also as a cultural and social project, which implies opening up to the possibility of original experiences in teaching, research and outreach, at a time when various changes in the environment are affecting and will continue to affect universities : the conversion of COVID 19 into a pandemic that has changed many perspectives of life in common ; the threats to life on the planet as a result of a civilising pattern of permanent war against nature and the native peoples, i.e. those peoples and communities that have persisted in living in harmony with it ; the various forms of exclusion and social violence ; the phenomenon of migration and human displacement ; the crisis of values ; the ethical problems of scientific and technological advances ; the transformations in the world of production and work ; the new information and communication technologies that transform individual and collective perceptions and representations of reality ; the gap between industrialised countries and the Global South accentuated by the processes of globalisation ; the crisis of the formal democratic system, and others.

The environment in which this type of institutional development can take place is that of an autonomous, democratic university, open to the analysis and discussion of all ideas and currents of thought, as well as to a broad intercultural dialogue without dogmatism or prejudice, and whose fundamental commitment is to respond to popular needs and national development, always seeking the well-being of society as a whole.

Urgent tasks

The current dramatic situation contrasts sharply with the vision of the necessary university. The unprecedented process of destruction of university institutions, similar to what has been happening to all Venezuelan state institutions, must be urgently halted and reversed.

It is imperative to design a plan to save what is left of the universities. There are tasks that can be undertaken even in the presence of the pandemic. Every second that passes makes the task of institutional recovery of the universities much more difficult and costly, both in terms of their physical plant and equipment, as well as their institutional culture, knowledge and talent. This recovery requires decent pay and working conditions - for teadching and all univesity employees - as well as study conditions for their students. Democratic renewal of the authorities, in the shortest possible time and under the best possible conditions. To gather information on the urgent needs in terms of infrastructure, goods and services for an early special investment, which guarantees an adequate working and study environment, and includes a canteen and transportation. Permanent surveillance of university spaces against the underworld. Vaccination of the entire university community, teachers, students, administrative employees and workers as a basic condition for the resumption of on-site activities. Significant improvement in the living, working and studying conditions of the university students. Recognition of the actors of the universities : authorities, unions and trade unions, without distinction of political or other nature Support for existing health programmes and the recovery of the operational and financial capacity of the Social Welfare Institutes. Restoration of the necessary and sufficient budget for research. Development of a system of indicators adapted to the country to establish and monitor the real situation of the science, technology and innovation ecosystem, of university education, with audits of enrolment and positions in universities. Restitution of student loans. Mechanism of university student admission established by agreements between the executive and the universities. The most important heritage of any university is the knowledge created or acquired and its dissemination throughout society, particularly with our young people through formal and non-formal activities. Any perspective for the recovery of the nation involves recovering its capacity to know, discover and provide intelligent and solid solutions to scientific, technical, social and cultural problems, and this is an essential role of any university in any part of the world. We must take on the task of recovering the universities as an essential condition for the recovery of the nation.

Unity to save the Venezuelan university

The university communities are called upon to take on the urgent tasks of leading a national effort to defend university education. For this to happen, it is essential :

The unity of the teachers’, students’ and workers’ unions in a single plan of action. Free and democratic debate (albeit by virtual means) that advances the integration of different points of view and conciliates internal visions that have so far been at odds with each other. Launch different initiatives to make the university crisis visible and to raise the country’s awareness of the urgency of the struggle. Venezuelan society needs its university, and the university needs to be fully integrated with the aspiration for change that today prevails in the vast majority of citizens. THERE IS NO REPUBLIC WITHOUT A UNIVERSITY, BUT NEITHER CAN THERE BE A UNIVERSITY WITHOUT A REPUBLIC. And that is what is dissolving before our eyes today, and we must stop it.

The defence of the autonomous, democratic, scientific, popular and quality university is a necessary step to save the nation. This is what we call for.

Venezuela, on the 14th day of April 2021.

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