Violence in the Salvadoran Society

El Salvador, ranked 107th in UNDP’s human de-velopment index (HDI), is one of the most violent countries in the world. The per capita murder rate was 69 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012, which is the 2nd highest in the world after Honduras. Homicide is by far the most common cause of non-natural death in the country. In 2012, 64 percent of all homicides were reported as being committed with firearms. Police crime statistics for 2012 for the number of reported robberies, assaults, and rapes showed significant increases.

One of the most serious security problems is the high prevalence of organized well-armed street gangs, so called maras, with a total of approximately 20 000 members, mostly young people but also former military and police personnel. Public schools in socially vulnerable areas are important platforms for the recruitment of new supporters and members.

The civil war fought in El Salvador from 1981 until 1992 did not only leave this legacy of extreme street violence, but has resulted in an institution-alization and normalization of violence in the society as a whole. According to some data, as much as 79 percent of Salvadoran children are physically maltreated, and domestic violence between adults is also very high.

The conflict, which originated in extreme social and economic inequality, led to the erosion of social and cultural capital, and public expenditure fell drastically. In the years after the peace set-tlement, measures have been taken to improve these deficits, as for example the implementation of educational programs and reforms.

Schools as Safe Havens

In a country like El Salvador, schools have the potential to work as safe havens for children growing up in a violent environment. The future of the children in these schools depends on what tools they are provided with in order to deal with physical and psychological violence, low self-esteem and low expectations and interest from significant others regarding academic achievement. In school, other norms and values are supposed to be at work, and the children are supposed to meet encouraging adults with a broader understanding of their individual rights and needs.

Improved academic achievement, ambitions for the future and peaceful co-existence are some of the official principles of the Salvadoran school, aiming at the obstruction of violence and the development of responsible citizens for the future.


How We Work

Schools for the Future implements sustainable educational violence prevention programs in collaboration with public schools in El Salvador. Research shows that reading habits and access to books has a strong impact on the ability to reflect and analyze, and that it is related to overall school achievement. In our programs, reflective, analytical, and joyful reading and writing is linked to drama and art, group dynamics, role plays, field trips and other activities.

We have been present in the country since 2008, and were recognized as Friend of El Salvador by the Salvadoran Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a ceremony in Stockholm in 2011.


Read more about our programs.

Sources: UNDP 2013, OSAC 2013, González-Cruz, 1997, Sociedad y Violencia. El Salvador en la Post-Guerra, Lara Alfaro, et al., 2003, Actitud hacia el Maltrato Físico Infantil, Savenije – Andrade-Eekhoff, 2003, Conviviendo en la Orilla: Exclusión Social y Violencia en el Area Metropolitana de San Salvador, Fernández, 2006, Una Aproximación a las Relaciones entre Clase Social y Habitus: Las Disposiciones Académicas de los Alumnos Iberoamericanos Evaluados por PISA 2003. Osofsky, 1999, The Impact of Violence on Children, Levin, 2008, The Violent Safe Haven Teachers’ and Principals’ Perceptions of Student Aggression at Three High Risk Public Schools in San Salvador, MINED 2013, Levin, 2007, School Achievement in El Salvador. A Quantitative Analysis of the Impact of Social Class, Cultural Capital, Gender and Public or Private School on the Results in Mathematics and Reading Comprehension among 9th Grade Students, Library Research Service 2013