Each first of December, Costa Rica celebrates one of its most significant historic events: the abolition of the army as a permanent institution. This was definitely one of the most important decisions to guarantee peace to the country and to make Democracy stronger.
In 1948, the army was present in the country’s organization as a permanent institution with rights and economical resources that were always a heavy load to the National Budget.
On December 1, 1948, General Jose Figueres Ferrer dissolved the army in Costa Rica. In front of about 100 witnesses, school students, diplomatic representatives and very important personalities of the country among them, Figueres hit with a demolition hammer the walls of the Bellavista Fortress. This marked the beginning of an era when education will be the priority for the government by passing the budget that was assigned to the army to the development of the educational system.
From that day on, Costa Rica has defended public education as a priority. Nowadays, you can find schools and high-schools all over the country. There are old, well known institutions that hold thousands of students as well as tiny one or two-classroom schools that hold a couple of tens of students.
President Daniel Oduber declared in a speech that the thousands of teachers that formed the educational front and the school, high-school and University students were the real Costa Rican Army. They are the ones that will defend the country from ignorance, poverty and injustice. This army is the one that will guide the country to progress and development. If a person finishes high-school, the chances of being poor are almost zero.
Education is Compulsory in Costa Rica up to 9th year of high-school. If parents do not send their children to school, police will come and put them in jail, and the children will be sent to a governmental institution to take care of them and send them to school. Public universities are among the best of Latin America and private institutions of higher education are abundant. The University of Costa Rica is famous for its highly qualified graduates. As a result of this, the country’s literacy is the highest in Latin America, matching the United States’ with 96% of the population.
The war is against ignorance and poverty. The only weapons needed are pencils, notebooks and books. The strategy is written on a blackboard and the result will be worth the sacrifice. Education is what has made this country big and an example for the rest of the world. Costa Ricans stopped spending in weapons and started building a future.