Children fainted by hunger in schools in Venezuela

MOUTH OF UCHIRE: Hundreds of children entered the courtyard of their school to hear a local Catholic bishop direct prayers for their education.

We pray for the young people who are on the streets and cannot go to school, said Bishop Jorge Quintero, addressing Augusto D'Aubeterre Lyceum in the city of Boca de Uchire on an October morning. At the end of the 15-minute ceremony, five children had passed out and two of them were taken in an ambulance. Fainting in elementary school has become commonplace because many students come to class without lunch or dinner the night before. In other schools, children want to know if there is any food before deciding if they want to go. Venezuela The six-year economic crisis is emptying the school system.

Today's education system doesn't allow children to become meaningful members of society, said Luis Bravo, an education researcher at the Central University of Venezuela. The government stopped publishing education statistics in 2014. But visits to more than a dozen schools in five states and interviews with dozens of teachers and parents indicate attendance has plummeted this year. Many schools are shuttering in the once-wealthy nation as malnourished kids and teachers who earn almost nothing abandon classrooms to scratch out a living on the streets.

Some Venezuela n kids are staying home because many schools have stopped providing meals or because their parents can no longer providing uniforms or bus fares. Others have joined parents in one of the world's biggest displacement crises: About four million Venezuela ns have fled the country since 2015, according to the United Nations .