A social media post by a university professor in Venezuela has gone viral after highlighting the extreme levels of poverty faced by teachers, lecturers and other professionals in the midst of the country’s economic crisis.
José Ibarra, a professor of social care at the Central University of Venezuela, Caracas, shared a photograph of a broken pair of shoes that he said he could not afford to repair.
“I’m not embarrassed to say it: it is with these shoes that I go to the Central University of Venezuela every day to teach,” he wrote in a Twitter post. “My salary as a university professor is not enough to change the sole of my shoes.”
No me da pena decirlo: con estos zapatos me traslado a la #UCV a dar clase. Mi sueldo como profesor universitario no me alcanza para pagar el cambio de suela pues sale en 20 millones pic.twitter.com/jZP5rDxYVV— José Ibarra (@Ibarraorellanes) June 29, 2018
Professor Ibarra said that a cobbler had told him that he would need 20 million bolívares (£88) to pay for new soles – almost four times his monthly salary. The post has had more than 10,000 retweets on Twitter and more than 1,000 responses from well-wishers, many of whom offered financial support as well as donations of shoes and clothes.
The response led Professor Ibarra to set up “Shoes of Dignity”, a charity campaign to help other colleagues living below the breadline.
“The tweet was an explosion of frustration. As hardly anyone was following me, I thought no one would see it,” he told AFP. “But already I’ve received 12 pairs of shoes – of which I’ve given away nine – clothes and money. I created the movement because I kept receiving donations.”
Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund estimated that the annual inflation rate in Venezuela will reach 1 million per cent by the end of 2018. Several university leaders in the country have made the decision to cut class timetables down to three days a week in order to save money – and often because university staff and students say that they cannot afford to make the journey in.
University lecturers at a number of institutions are being encouraged to find secondary sources of income amid fears that institutions can no longer afford to pay them a living wage.