The country

Population

Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. In 1992, 97% of people living in the countryside existed in extreme poverty. It is the country with the highest percentage of ethnic Indians and has a population of 8.7 million (2003), 70% of whom belong to the indigenous population. Spanish is the official language, while 20% speak Quechua 14% Aymará as first language. In addition to that, 34 indigenous languages are spoken.

Data on education

The level of education is low, medical care is available to far too few people and there are shortages of the most basic facilities, such as water. There is little learning material and no money to pay for adequate teachers and nurses.

  • Compulsory education: Bolivian children are obliged to go to school from 6 – 13 years
  • Number of children attending school: approximately 71.5% of Bolivian children finishes primary school. In the cities more people attend (and finish) school than on the country side.
  • Average number of students per teacher: 24.1:1.
  • Girls and boys. Generally speaking about as much girls as boys attend school. On the country side girls stop more often and sooner than boys: only 44% of girls finishes primary school as opposed to 54% of the boys.

The country

The infrastructure of the country is particularly bad, mostly because of the geographical conditions. There is almost no industry and the oil and gas riches were only exploited by foreign companies, until very recently.

Bolivia is totally surrounded by five other countries and has no sea coast or harbours. There are 3 climate zones: the Altiplano (a cold, high plateau at an altitude of between 3,500 – 4,000 m), the Yungas (valleys with a subtropical climate) and the Oriente (tropical lowlands and the beginning of the Amazon rainforest).

The Altiplano is a bare and bleak (puna) landscape with a wild beauty. The department of Potosí lies in the south-west and is a breath-taking landscape with the largest salt flats in the world (Salar de Uyuni), volcanoes, geysers, coloured lakes with flamingos and multi-coloured mountains.

On the map