This post is about the Volcancito School. As I said in the first posting about education in Panama, this one is one of only 8 schools in this province of Chiriquí. The school is almost entirely indigenous students, k-6th grades. While the kindergartners only attend until noon, the other students attend from 8-4 each day. The students generally don’t have any homework except occasionally to study for a quiz.
Education is mandatory however the principal, Candelario feels that the children are really sent by their parents because they are fed. They each receive a breakfast and lunch. The school receives $3000 per month from the Panamanian government to cover the cost of food. With 180 students, approximately 20 days of school a month, that works out to $0.83 a day for food per child. Despite the limitations I saw a large crate of fresh tomatoes when I was in the kitchen.
Students receive 2 hours per day instruction in English by teachers that only teach English. The rest of the day is taught in Spanish. In addition to English and Spanish, students are taught sanitation, health, relationships, reading, writing, math, and history.
Candelario feels that his biggest obstacles are:
- Poverty-as many as 8 people would live in a space the size of his office. If you look at the picture I took of it, you can see how small that is.
- Inadequate facilities-Since becoming the principal in 2013, several classrooms have been added however they are barely adequate. The kitchen is approximately 25’x15′ including two large picnic benches where the children eat, refrigerators, freezers, sink, and stove! The Rotary club has helped them add space, including a new classroom that is almost ready to be used.
- Abuse-Sadly, physical, sexual, and mental abuse is common in the culture. Girls as young as 10 get pregnant.
This school is truly blessed to have Candelario for their principal. Although he plans to retire in a few years after 31 years as a teacher and a number of years as a principal, he hasn’t done that yet because he feels that he has a mission from God to help these kids.
One goal of his is to add a computer lab. There are currently no computers for the children to use. If you are so moved, let me know and we will see how you can help with this.