Education Plus Nicaragua Needs Help

I’m way behind on posting because we have not had good internet but this post needs to be done in any case. It isn’t about our recent activities, it is about Education Plus Nicaragua which we visited back in May last year.

I didn’t give this organization enough mention in my May 15, 2017 posting. We visited the school and talked at length with a couple of staff members and met some of the kids. The children love going there each day, if for no other reason that they get a decent meal. But most of them appreciate the supplemental education that they get as well.

I received this email today and feel compelled to post it and ask anyone who reads this to consider giving $5, $10, $25, or more one time or on an ongoing basis. I can just about count the monthly contributions that I do regularly on one hand and this is one of them.

“Dear friends and family,

Where to even begin.

Last week, political protests erupted all across Nicaragua, leaving more than 30 dead so far.  Protesters are sick of what they view as their corrupt and inept government, and government forces have met peaceful protests with guns and mortars.  New laws were announced increasing income taxes, higher taxes on social security payments, and decreased medical coverage.  At the same time social security is almost insolvent, its funds having allegedly been used by the main political party, the Sandinistas, to purchase luxury housing and private businesses for themselves.  Censorship has kicked up – news channels that are not pro-government have been shut down, and things only seem to be getting worse.  “President” Daniel Ortega has announced he will be rescinding the social security reforms, but the number of protesters is still growing, with some police forces disobeying orders and joining the side of the people. Businesses in the capital are on strike today, demanding the release of political prisoners and an end to censorship and violent repression.

While the social security reforms were the main trigger of the protests, this really has been a long time coming.  Several other issues have caused the protest, including the government’s inept handling of a recent natural disaster in the Indio Maiz region, and because the people are sick of a public education system that says it averages 25 children per classroom but actually averages 50 or more.  Now, a common protest against non-profits such as Education Plus is: “why are you educating that children?  That should be the government’s job.  If you provide the education, then the government has no incentive to do their job.  Therefore, you are actually contributing to the problem.”

Well, in Nicaragua, the endemic corruption is so bad that even if there were more funding for the school system, little would find its way to the children.  More fundamentally, the current government does not want its people educated.  University students are a main faction of the protesters.   The government knows that with education comes greater awareness and a decrease in the sense of powerlessness.  Uneducated people are poorer – so the government can buy their votes cheaply in election years by going around giving out sacks of food and cheap building materials to repair homes.  Additionally, it is the poor and illiterate who are the easiest to manipulate.  We have firsthand accounts of the police going into our community of Pantanal and paying men 200 cord (about 6 USD) to attack peaceful protesters.

This is not the e-mail I wanted to be writing.  But big things are going on right now in Nicaragua, and I want to let you all know that with Education Plus, things will be business as usual as much as possible.  While public schools are closed for now, our doors will be open.  Our employees do not want to stay at home, in fact, they say they feel safer at Casa de los Sueños.  We have arranged transportation so they can get to and from work safely.  If the power is cut across the country as is rumored (in order to prevent communications of what is going on to the outside world), we will keep our doors open.  We will cook with wood and teach in dark but still enthusiastic classrooms.  We will remain a safe place for the children to come and be children throughout the crisis. 

If we start to argue about “government responsibility”, it is the children who will lose.  It falls to us who actually have the economic power to make a difference, to educate the children who will be the future leaders of their country.   As Cardinal Obispo Silvio Baez recently told a gathering of university students at the Metropolitan Cathedral, “The students of Nicaragua are its moral reserve.”

To make a donation to help us continue feeding the children during the crisis, please click on the button below:

Click Here to Help us Feed the Children During the Crisis

Thank you for standing with us during these heartbreaking times.

With hope and gratitude,

Monica, Jim, the staff, volunteers and children of Education Plus

Monica Loveley
Executive Director
Education Plus Nicaragua
www.eduplusnicaragua.org
www.facebook.com/eduplusnicaragua

 

Education in Ecuador

Education is free and required from age 6-14 (9 years). Secondary education is  optional and available to age 18 but there is a charge for the last 3 years. The literacy rate is purported to be over 90% for older teens and adults although according to this site 25% of the children drop out by 5th grade.

Vocational education hasn’t been good but it is improving. Colleges and universities don’t have a great reputation internationally either.

As is common in so many places, the rural students tend to have less education than students in the cities.

Schools often offer a foreign language, English is common. We have run into a number of people who started learning English in their school.

The country is working hard to improve teachers’ training, reduce class size, and generally improve education by increased funding.

Education in Colombia

Colombian school children in uniform,  http://www.colombiainfo.org/en-us/colombia/education.aspx

In Colombia, although education is supposedly mandatory according to this website (I can’t tell you anything more about this website), our guide told us it isn’t so it must not be enforced. The drop out rate is fairly high as the students reach the upper grades.

Students start school at age 5 in Kindergarten. They go through grade 11. Like many Latin American countries, the “high school” is called colegio. The public university is tough to get into and private university is very expensive.

In recent years, there are some trade subjects taught in colegios.

Unlike in Nicaragua, the teachers are fairly well educated.

Both public and private schools wear uniforms here.

Students must buy their own textbooks; they are not provided by the schools.

More information is available here.

A Willingness To Try New Things

I receive an email each morning from the Daily Word. It is a brief thought for the day. Here is today’s Daily Word:

Willingness
A willingness to try new things brings freshness to my life.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

There is great wisdom in the conventional saying, “You won’t know unless you try.” Countless opportunities appear in a lifetime, but without willingness to try new things, those experiences will be left undiscovered.

When I stretch myself to try something new, I discover adventures, communities, foods, or interests I wouldn’t have ever known. Deep joy may result from my willing action to do something unfamiliar. Even if I decide that what I’ve tried is not for me, I gain experience and knowledge in the process of expanding beyond my usual activities.

Today I purposely choose to do something new. With a willing heart and an open mind, I experience the freshness of life.

Our travels are about our willingness to try new things. Sometimes it is a bit scary, mostly exciting. I’ve been trying a few new foods. We try to find a new fruit or vegetable when we go to the market. It is a conundrum for me because I want to do this but I am hesitant. We have bought some fruits and tried them. Most of them haven’t been very interesting to me.

I plan to post some examples with our thoughts soon. Stay tuned…

Education in Panama

Candelario at his desk. The building is older and there is no door on his office. The arched door leads to a woman’s office (secretary?) which is much larger than his.

I’ve been wanting to talk with someone familiar with the education system in Panama and this week our B&B host, Lisia, and I were out for a walk and ran into the principal of the local elementary school. Lisia introduced me to him. His name is Candelario. I asked if he might have time this week to chat for a little while; he was happy to have me come the following day.

When I arrived, Candelario was waiting for me at the school. After he rang the recess bell, we went into his office to talk. His office is barely 8’x5′. The secretary or whatever her title is has twice the space as the principal. But it was very significant to me that the FIRST area you enter is to HIS office, not hers! During our 20-30 minutes of talking, at least 4 students came to him to ask quick questions. Each time, Candelario immediately stopped talking with me and focused intently and lovingly on the child. It is obvious that he is there for them.

He often gave the child what they wanted but one child wanted something to do with a non-nutritious snack and he kindly but firmly said that they don’t eat that kind of food at school. One of his main focuses is health and healthy eating…more on that later.

I will divide the information I have on education in Panama over several blogs since it is a lot of information and quite diverse.

Education in Panama Part 2

Kindergarten kids always love to get their picture taken.

The local elementary school is one of only 8 schools in Chiriquí Province where we are currently living. In this posting I will discuss general education in Panama and a subsequent posting will talk about this special school.

Panamanian children attend school from kindergarten (or as Candelario called it “his garden”) through the 12th grade. Schools are generally 5 hours per day (a little shorter for kindergarten). The school year runs from March to a few days before Christmas. Students are off for about 2 1/2 months for their vacation.

I was surprised and saddened to see in at least one article (very interesting article from late 2016) that Panama’s education system is considered the “worst in the world” which would be bad to be worse than Nicaragua or other really poorer countries. Candelario characterized Panama as a rich country whose wealth is centralized among the elite and doesn’t trickle down to the masses. Drop out rate is 20-25%.

Beginning in 2008, children with disabilities are integrated into the regular classroom. I’m a huge proponent of integration but in Panama most of the teachers don’t get any support to teach the child with disabilities. No aide, no training, no smaller classroom. Hard to expect any success for those children in those situations.

More females attend college/university than males who have usually already joined the workforce by their mid to late teens.

Education in Panama Part 3

 

Local elementary school: Ministry of Education, Volcancito School.

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.

Kindergarten

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.