By Vivian Sequera
CARACAS (Reuters) – The corridors are empty and silent at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), the country’s oldest and largest institution of higher education, as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the evacuation of its 32,000 students.
The 298-year-old university is suffering not only the impact of the coronavirus quarantine, but also a six-year economic crisis that has left it struggling with a meager budget and the emigration of 30% of its graduates.
The deterioration of its infrastructure stood out in June with the partial collapse of the roof of an outdoor walkway that is a part of the iconic architecture of the complex, which has been recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
The institution’s troubles signal that Venezuela risks losing a generation of college graduates, potentially leaving it without the human resources to rebuild a nation where most of the professionals are now in the diaspora.
Many students simply get their degrees and leave the country, said rector Cecilia Garcia.
“It’s bleeding out,” she said.
As the number of students declines, some professors make just $1.50 a month, Garcia said.
“The deterioration is general,” said David Sosa, president of the UCV student federation, walking through corridors dotted with leaky roofs and broken cobblestones.
Video: Some students don’t show up for class as NYC schools begin reopening (ABC News)