teens participate in inclusive education programs annually
SOCATs financed throughout the country
health centers established
Better health and education open doors to vulnerable children
Disadvantaged children and youths are improving their prospects for a better life with the support of an IDB-financed program that is helping to expand access to health, education, and social safety services for low-income families.
“Previously, studying was not a goal in my life”, says Daniel Montes de Oca, 18-year-old student from Programa Puente. “But now, my studies are giving me new opportunities. They will help me become something.”
“The most important thing is to love your students, to be able to connect with them,” says Miguel Alario, electronics professor in the Basic Community Professional Training Program. “Even being a fine teacher is not enough.”
The National Strategy for Children and Adolescents Support Program is being financed by a $40 million IDB loan approved in 2010. This is the first operation under the $200 million conditional credit line for investment projects to support Uruguay’s National Strategy for Children and Adolescents (ENIA), which was approved by the Bank in 2008.
Support for vulnerable youth
Poverty rates in Uruguay are highest among its younger-age population. In 2009, nearly 40 percent of children under the age of 14 were living in poor households, compared with barely 8.4 percent of adults over 65 years of age. Inadequate health care and educational opportunities in formative years put these children at a disadvantage in later life.
In the 0-3 age group, the principal risks are delayed development, nutritional deficiencies, and other health problems. For example, the incidence of premature births in 2007 was 9.3 percent, and 8.3 percent of newborns weighed less than 2.5 kilgrams at birth. Children born in public centers experience 114 percent more problems associated with delayed growth than those born in private health centers.
Delayed growth leads to learning difficulties. In the 4-12 age group, nearly a fifth of children from poor neighborhoods have school attendance problems, compared with only 4.2 percent for children with highly favorable circumstances. For the 13-18 age group, the major problem is completing the expected 12 years of primary and secondary school. Only four out of ten students who enter secondary school go on to graduate.
The Uruguayan government is addressing these problems through its Equity Plan (now part of the country’s Social Reform), which was approved in 2007 as the strategic framework for social policy. Among the goals of the plan are to reorganize the social safety net system of universal policies and programs and to establish a new social assistance and integration network to address problems of vulnerability. The country’s National Strategy for Children and Adolescents (ENIA) supports these aims by providing the families of all Uruguayan children and adolescents with targeted support. Within the ENIA policy framework, the government’s Strategic Coordination Committee for Children, Adolescents, and Youth validated the 2010-2015 ENIA Action Plan, which underpins the present IDB-financed program.
The program in brief
The National Strategy for Children and Adolescents Support Program supports ENIA’s 2010-2015 Action Plan by promoting improvements in the living conditions of children, adolescents, and their families, especially those living in poverty. By gradually narrowing access and quality gaps in health, education, and social safety net services, the program is creating greater equality of opportunity in childhood and adolescent development. The program is being carried out by the Ministry of Social Development (MIDES).
The program’s main focus is to articulate actions at the community level through Services for Territorial Orientation, Consultation, and Articulation (SOCATs), which leverage existing resources and support innovative actions developed jointly with other public institutions responsible for early childhood social policies.
The program finances targeted actions for newborns and children that include early detection of pregnancy, ensuring that mothers receive adequate prenatal check-ups and strengthening health care for pregnant women in poverty areas. In addition, a plan is being carried out to strengthen supervision and management for public and private early childhood centers.
Support for a national early childhood care system includes on-the-job training for teachers, creation of mobile units with basic equipment for prenatal check-ups and monitoring newborns, publication of support materials for working with pregnant women and newborns, and specialized consulting services to upgrade, strengthen, and consolidate successful initiatives at the national level.
Actions aimed at children are designed to increase school attendance and reduce repetition, as well as to ensure participation in school health care activities. To achieve these objectives, the program is financing the purchase of equipment for physical education activities, training for inter-sectoral teams responsible for remedial education, educational support, school health, and publication of materials.
Financing for adolescents is aimed at helping at-risk youth remain in school, transition successfully from primary school to secondary school, and increase the rate of graduation from basic to secondary school. It also seeks to help strengthen adolescent health care in doctors’ offices in the public health system and to assist street teens at extreme risk. Actions include the purchase of equipment for refurbishing health care centers, training for technical teams responsible for health care and street youth, contracting of civil society organizations to manage community classrooms, and publication of materials.
The program is also providing support to MIDES and other participating institutions for technical assistance, training, and specialized consulting services to strengthen linkages needed at the policy level.
Activities to generate knowledge include improvements in information systems used to monitor and evaluate policies and programs, support for coordinating inter-sectoral initiatives, promotion of transparency, and strengthening social oversight. In addition, technical assistance and specialized consulting services are being financed for the design and implementation of a social communications strategy aimed at portraying children and adolescents as drivers in the development of society, promoting opportunities for expression and participation, protecting their rights, reporting on the outcomes of the program’s actions, and supporting ENIA’s 2010-2015 Action Plan.
Toward the future
The program is addressing the challenges of deepening results so far obtained. The challenges are mainly related to the implementation of new family-level interventions for reaching the poorest households, supporting the consolidation of educative inclusion programs within educational system, and helping adolescents in special risk situations (violence victims, conflict with law, homelessness, etc).