In El Salvador, schools are starting to teach kids how to use Bitcoin as crypto assets become a key part of the country’s financial infrastructure. These kids, in turn, are teaching their parents how to use “digital gold” in a cryptocurrency revolution that is hoped will lift the country out of poverty, as President Nayib Bukele ramps up financial reform.
El Salvador was the first country in the world to make Bitcoin legal tender. This means that citizens and visitors can pay with either Bitcoin or US dollars for anything inside the country.
El Salvador is an impoverished nation in Central America. Their president, Nayib Bukele has pushed Bitcoin as a way to hack the poverty cycle and create financial opportunities for the small country. He hopes that building a Bitcoin City will create a parallel economy and loosen the financial shackles that the much larger US economy has on the region.
While it is a hugely risky strategy, if it works out, Bukele will be a hero of his people, and his model will likely be adopted by other countries struggling to get out of the financial mire. If it goes wrong, he will have set the country back into deeper poverty, and will be dragged by his critics for the rest of his life. This rolling of the dice using crypto has got the world watching and holding their breath.
And yet, there is hope. El Salvador’s planned Bitcoin city, which will offer tax-free income and property, has just won a sustainable cities design award and is becoming less of a fabled urban playground of dreams and more of a soon-to-be-built reality.
The El Salvador school Bitcoin push
There is, however, a problem. Bitcoin can’t give El Salvador’s population leverage if they don’t know how to use it and if they can’t understand how it can benefit them. Another problem is that around 27% of the adult population are illiterate.
The way to break this cycle of poverty, according to a charity organisation called Mi Primer Bitcoin (My First Bitcoin) is to get into schools and teach the young how to use Bitcoin, and also the reasons for using it. Then, these kids can go home and teach the people in their extended families how to use it and why they should.
The government has welcomed Mi Primer Bitcoin into schools but does not fund the program. It is run on donations from around the world, and recently it has snagged sponsorships from corporate entities like cryptocurrency platform Bitfinex.
How the El Salvador school push works
As a part of a ten-week curriculum, teachers give students practical demonstrations and lessons on how to use Bitcoin, but also on more complex concepts, like nodes, double-spending, and halvings.
According to Mi Primer Bitcoin, the program has grown aggressively. “We’ve already taught over 10,000 students in 2022. We expect to do AT LEAST another 25 times that in 2023, which would be 250,000 students.”
Students can download the textbook for free. The course, in the short time that it has been operating, has evolved into the world’s first-ever Bitcoin Diploma program.
The growth of Mi Primer Bitcoin goes further with its reach than just with school kids. The organisation decided to teach the kids’ parents, too. “We also had free intro classes every week where we taught the parents and community members, including all the nearby small businesses.”
The charity organisation has also hired its first paid staff as it expands across El Salvador. They say that they are determined to ‘show rather than tell’ and are ‘dedicated to helping Salvadoreans make their first real-world Bitcoin transaction.’
Nayib Bukele and fighting poverty
Interestingly, the organisation has also made moves to teach the Bitcoin Diploma in the open air on La Pirraya island, which is located in the Pacific Ocean. It is a remote but impoverished island that needs an injection of tourism development opportunities.
Using the “Bitcoin Beach” model as an example, they hope to kick-start a circular economy on ‘Bitcoin Island’ and put it on the tourism map.
As Mi Primer Bitcoin say, “First, we change ourselves, then we change El Salvador, then we change the world.”
This is the world’s biggest and most risky experiment with cryptocurrency, thanks to Nayib Bukele, and all eyes are on this tiny nation as the gripping story unfolds.