Venezuela and Cuba Creating First High School in Sahara Camps

Venezuela, Cuba, and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic have signed an agreement to build the first highschool in the Sahrawi refugee camps.


The opening of the school will mean the children from the refugee camps won’t be obliged to attend high school in Algeria, and as a consequence lose Spanish, which is the second language of the Sahrawi people.

Until now, there are only primary schools in the refugee camps, so the majority of teenagers have to continue their studies in Algeria or try to obtain a scholarship in Spain or Cuba, which are the main countries who, in recent years, have helped out so that the Sahrawi people can continue studying in Spanish.

The new high school will be called Simon Bolivar, and is currently being built in the refugee camp Esmara. Its inauguration is planned for the middle of September, just before the start of the school year.

Venezuela has contributed financing of $1 million for the project, which in the first phase will have an enrolment of 360 high school students.

Later, a further $1 million in Venezuelan financing will enable a total enrollment of 600 students, in seventh to ninth grade.

Cuba has taken responsibility for providing advice and supervising the construction of the school with experts from the Caribbean country.

The Esmara school will accept students from four Sahrawi refugee camps in south east Algeria as boarders or semi-boarders, with the possibility of having lunch in the centre and sleeping in the family tent.

The study curriculum includes subjects such as Arabic and Spanish, though they study in both languages.

Students will also be able to study English and French during the three years of study the school will offer. There will also be work education, biological laboratories, chemistry, physics, and computing laboratories.

The project involves eighteen classrooms, a library, dining areas and kitchen, administration offices, dormitories for students and teachers, outside sports facilities, and an amphitheatre. 

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Further translator notes: The school is the result of an agreement between Venezuela, Cuba, and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a partially recognised state that claims sovereignty over the territory of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony. However SADR only controls around 20-25% of the territory it claims, with Morocco administering disputed territories.

In 2009 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called for the liberation of the Sahrawi people. That same year Morocco closed its embassy in Venezuela.