Along dirt roads, Sebastián Carreño could take up to one hour walking or in a vehicle to reach his school located in the El Carmen de Chucurí municipality (Santander, Colombia), where he lives on a farm with his mother and younger brother cultivating cocoa, avocado, cassava and banana.
Sebastián is the son of Yamile Pinzón, an entrepreneur, widower and mother of two teenagers. He will study Agronomic Engineering because he won the Transformando Realidades scholarship sponsored by BBVA and Bancamía, BBVA Microfinance Foundation’s (BBVAMF) Colombian institution. Like him, four other students, children from low-income households, will also start their college education next year.
A door to opportunities
Convinced that education is a key to reducing inequalities and has a positive impact on families and communities, in 2020 and within the context of a health emergency, BBVA and Bancamía decided to launch the Transformando Realidades scholarship to support the children of microentrepreneurs served by Bancamía who come from low income families. This is also a way to acknowledge the work and effort of their parents as entrepreneurs .
Nearly 1,000 applications from 320 municipalities vied for these teenagers’ goals of becoming professionals, representing a 62% increase from last year. Out of the candidates, 72% were children of women entrepreneurs, 81% are in economically vulnerable situations, 34% live in rural areas and 42% have primary education at best.
BBVA chairman Carlos Torres Vila presented the scholarships to five winners and encouraged them to follow their parent’s example because “there’s no better legacy for our children than education” and pointed out that it is “key for people’s progress and for society’s development. It pushes growth and is a door to opportunities aside from being a force, perhaps the most important one, to fix inequalities.”
According to a report published last month by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), only 2%-4% of low income youth between 25-29 years old finish higher studies. The pandemic has also increased inequalities regarding access to education, making these kinds of initiatives more necessary than ever.
Dreaming of a better life for their children through education
Together with Sebastián, four other teenagers received this recognition. This is the case of Mario Alexander Naicipa, second runner-up, son of Luz Nelly Díaz (55) who works as a makeup artist and beauty products seller.
Mario is a cancer survivor and considers this scholarship as a second opportunity for him to make his dream come true: to study film and television direction.
Third runner-up Belkis Xiomara Correa from Cúcuta (North of Santander) lives with her mother Blanca Vega, head of household and entrepreneur who is a catalog vendor as well as seller of tamales and frozen delights.
She wants to study early childhood education because she wishes to “teach children with love so they can grow up happy and not go through so many hardships that I had to experience in my home.”
Ángela Karina Sánchez also wants to be a teacher. She has five siblings and is the daughter of Adolfo Sánchez (52), owner of a vulcanizing shop. The biggest dream of this microentrepreneur is for his child to study whatever she wishes and see her turn into a professional.
Luisa Fernanda Bautista is from Ráquira (Boyacá) and is very much inclined to study health sciences. She is the daughter of Blanca Reyes, a craftswoman for 17 years and a mother of four. One of her children has special needs and this has inspired Luisa Fernanda to pursue a degree that would support his care and well-being.
The winners will receive support that covers payment for school fees and a monthly stipend during the span of their studies.
According to Miguel Ángel Charria, executive president for Bancamía, “34% of the microentrepreneurs that we support have primary education at best and when we talk with them, one of their higher goals is to be able to give education to their children.”
Parents’ effort to give their children a better future is the main driver of this initiative, knowing that the opportunity for them to receive college education transforms the reality of the whole family as well as the desire to accompany those who through hard work and perseverance, were able to progress, even in the middle of a pandemic.