El Salvador has the sad title of ‘most violent country in the world’ due to its excessive murder rate and epidemic of crime. In response, the government has implemented ‘zero tolerance’ policies with youth gangs who are at the root of the problem. However, due to a lack of attention to reintegration and education, the violence has not subsided.
The Instituto Técnico Obrero Empresarial Don Bosco (ITOE) in San Salvador is offering a more effective solution. ITOE Don Bosco provides primary, secondary and vocational education to 450 youth from the violent slums on the outskirts of city. Students there are transformed from their life on the streets and also learn valuable skills to become car mechanics, electricians, tailors and other trades people, giving them a viable option to gang life.
According to the school's founder, Father Jose Maria Moratalla, “We have an epidemic of violence, and in an epidemic like this one, repression is needed. But prevention and rehabilitation are also necessary, and these two components have been missing.”
The school sits in the heart of Iberia, San Salvador’s expansive shanty town, and includes cooperative businesses started by some of the school’s students. These co-ops and workshops also provide students with employment opportunities when they graduate.
Of the current student body, 150 are youngsters classified as "high risk" – in other words, they have been involved in gangs or criminal activities or are on the verge of falling into crime. Some of them have been released from jail sentences for good behavior and are now studying at the school to prepare for a life without criminal activity.
But now, thanks to ITOE Don Bosco – in cooperation with government and local agencies – the support structure is in place for providing the necessary component for cleaning up gang violence in the world’s most violent country.
Your support of Salesian Missions helps provide vocational education to youth living in in poverty around the globe, many of which are at risk of violence perpetrated by gangs.