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Government policy dictates that money generated from extraction projects be put toward public services like education.
The Ecuadorean Ministry of Ecuador announced Wednesday that the government intends to build 400 new schools by 2017.
Half of the schools will be the state of the art “Millennium Educational Units” that include scientific laboratories, a library, a multi-purpose auditorium, an administrative wing and ample classrooms. The rest will be prefabricated units that can be constructed much faster and will be built in areas with the most urgent need for new schools.
"There is no better way to achieve true freedom than quality education,” President Rafael Correa said Tuesday during a ceremony to inaugurate a new school in the province of Azuay.
The new Millennium Educational Unit opened in Azuay replaces 13 much smaller schools that were sorely lacking in supplies and space needed to provide a quality education.
According to the Andes news agency, the funding for this particular school came from royalties from a nearby mining project. The stated objective of the Correa government is to take the income generated from extraction projects and invest it into strategic sectors such as education in order to move the country away from its dependence on non-renewable resources.
Ecuadorean law also stipulates that a portion of the income generated by extraction projects be reinvested into the region where the project is located.
Correa says his government had invested at least US$20 billion in education over the past eight years of his administration. The Ministry of Education provides free school supplies, books, uniforms, and meals in order to reduce barriers for low-income students, with a goal of achieving a 100 percent attendance rate.
The political opposition and right-wing press have criticized the Correa government over its spending. During the inauguration ceremony Correa replied saying, “Ecuador does not spend a lot, it invests a lot, which is different.”
The country has already built 57 of the Millennium Educational Units, with a further 48 under construction. The schools are intended to have a lifespan of 100 years. The prefabricated schools have a shorter lifespan at 25 years but take only 11 weeks to build.