Globe, Latin America

The Juancito Pinto Bono, a grant to stop absenteeism

Established in honour of a 12 year old boy who fought against invading troops in the War of the Pacific in 1879, the grant is a key part of reducing school absenteeism in Bolivia, which today stands at only 1.9%.

Alfredo Boada Mola

In the midst of the happiness, songs, music, dances and poems of almost two million children and teenagers, the payment of the Juancito Pinto bono or bursary began, a monetary bonus created in 2006 by the government of Evo Morales to try to prevent students dropping out of school.

The idea to establish this type of incentive – 200 bolivianos (30 dollars) per student – came from a Children’s Congress initiative, where young people play at being government ministers and senators, and they can propose laws to support this historically vulnerable sector.

Established in honour of a 12 year old boy, a hero of the War of the Pacific in 1879, who fought against invading troops, the stipend, since 2006, has been key in the reduction of absences in the classroom by 6% to current levels of only 1.9% throughout the whole country.

In the sixth year of issuing the stipend, President Evo Morales began the simultaneous distribution through the whole of the Bolivian Plurinational State, in a ceremony at the Aldana Coliseum in the city of Sucre, Chuquisaca. This was replicated by similar events in the rest of the departments, in the presence of the Vice President Álvaro García, and ministers of the State and members of the Armed Forces.

The dignitary (Garcia), on describing the importance of the impact of this social policy, which on this occasion included students with special needs for the first time, recalled that the bursary is a result of the nationalisation of the hydrocarbon industry on 1st May 2006.

In that year the process of change was established in the high plateau Andean country, thanks to social struggles of indigenous people and workers.

Morales, who also went to the principality of Shinaota some 178 km from the city of Cochabamba, where 321,000 students of regular, special and alternative education are beneficiaries in the department, predicted that all the secondary and primary schools of Bolivia will have electricity in 2012.

According to the President, the measures will benefit around three thousand educational establishments in rural areas that do not already have this vital service.

He also highlighted the collaboration of soldiers that are responsible for distributing the bursary to children throughout the national territory, particularly in the border populations and those that live furthest from urban centres.

Beneficiaries in figures

In its sixth edition, the Juancito Pinto bursary distributed 378 million bolivianos (54 million dollars), from the royalties of the Direct Tax on Hydrocarbons and the mining sector, between 1,891,000 students over eight levels of the educational system, in more than 14,000 primary and secondary schools throughout the entire Plurinational State.

Around 60% of students that receive this benefit live in urban areas, and 40% are from rural zones; the assistance also covers some six thousand students with disabilities registered in specialist centres.

Since 2006 the government has paid out more than 1,881 million bolivianos in the distribution of the bursary, according to the report of the Memoria de Apuntes Esenciales (Report of Essential Notes) from the Ministry of Education.

The Minister of Development Planning, Viviana Caro, confirmed that with this payment, since 2006, Bolivia is very close to achieving school retention at 100% in the primary stage, complying with the challenges set out in the millennium for 2015.

Student reactions

Mario Choque, a student in 4th grade of primary school, confirms that he is very happy with his bursary, which he used in previous years to buy clothes, toys and school materials, and also helped his mum with the bills.

This time I will save it – he says – for when I need it, because now my mum has a good job and we are better off, not like other years when we needed the money.

According to Yesica Salvatierra, a student in 7th grade, she was grateful to the government of Evo Morales for their help, as she has a lot of siblings and sometimes the eldest child has to leave school due to lack of money.

Nevertheless, now that there is an incentive, this young lady confirms that many of her schoolmates are going to continue to educate and better themselves.

A child hero

Juancito Pinto was born in the city of La Paz, in a place known as Tanque de Agua (Water Tank) in 1867. At the age of 12 he witnessed a lot of young people enrolling themselves in the ranks of the National Army to go to war.

When he started in the army he was assigned to play the Bugle Horn and then employed as the lead drummer in the Bolivian Colorados Regiment, which was preparing for the Battle of Tacna. In this battle, that took place on the 26th May 1880, the armies of Chile came face to face with the allied armies of Bolivia and Peru.

According to the accounts of survivors, the boy played his drum alongside the troops surely and courageously, but in the middle of the fighting, Pinto’s musical instrument was destroyed.

The boy threw it to the ground and ran for the battlefield to take up the arms of a wounded soldier and to join in the defence of his fatherland. Juancito died in intense fighting alongside other soldiers in the trenches. PL.

(Translated by Donna Davison – email:

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