Monday, February 20, 2012

Schools in San Fernando and Las Limas

I know a lot of people are interested in knowing more about the schools in Nicaragua, and while Tim McMahon and his wife were here, Tim and I had a chance to visit two rural schools with Martha as our guide. It was definitely an eye-opening experience for all of us...but I will let the pictures do the talking.

Part 1: San Fernando
The first school we visited was in San Fernando, a rural community to the south of El Sauce. This community received a well last year that was donated by a collaboration between Ciudad Hermana and El Porvenir, an NGO that does a lot of work especially building wells in poor rural communities. The school in San Fernando was built by World Vision and educates 72 students according to the sign out front:
Outside of the school in San Fernando

There are three classrooms with minimal supplies. When we visited, school still wasn't in session, so the classrooms weren't cleaned or arranged yet, but these images still give a pretty good idea of how little the teachers and children at this school have:
Classroom 1: old chalkboard, a couple posters, dirt floor, and wood desks, some of which are partly broken
Classroom 2: ceramic floor, old chalkboard, table and chairs, and wooden desks

Classroom 2 other side: classroom decorations/projects

Classroom 3: ceramic floor, some desks, and a chalkboard with a poster about Nicaragua's independence

Classroom 3: whiteboard balanced on two chairs

The bathrooms are outhouses put in by Word Vision. Keep in mind there are 72 children attending this school...
Three outhouses for the 72 students, plus a few swings
I think the part of this visit that most struck us was when we saw the preschool area. It is a makeshift area that we (meaning people from the US) wouldn't keep livestock in. And supposedly, their preschoolers are supposed to learn in here. Take a look at these pictures and think of your youngster, or a cousin, neighbor, or any child you know, and think how you would feel if that child had to attend school in these conditions:

Now, we're not 100% sure it is actually functioning as a preschool, it's just what Martha had heard. Martha and I are going to investigate this now that the school year has started. If there are children trying to learn in this area, we were thinking of ideas to start a project to clean it up and make it presentable for learning to take place. We want to talk to the community and see how the parents feel and if they would be interested in helping fix the area up so the children can have a dignified classroom. So, keep this school in your prayers in the meantime, and I will keep you updated on what we figure out and if we can do a project to help this school, because if so, we will need all the help we can get!

Part 2: Las Limas
Our second visit for the day was to a rural school called Las Limas, which is to the north of El Sauce (past the hospital, for those of you who know where the hospital is). This is another rural school that has a number of estudiantes becados (children on scholarship) from one of the projects of Ciudad Hermana.

There is one teacher in this school, and he lives in El Sauce and rides his bike about 30 minutes over the extremely uneven and dusty road to get to the school. During rainy season, I'm sure his ride to school is another adventure that I can't even imagine right now! This school is a primary school, meaning it offers 1st through 6th grade. Remember, though, that there is only one teacher for all of the children. There are about 25 children in 1st-6th grade here, plus a few in preschool.

Since this is a rural school, and the children have to travel long distances to get to and from school, attendance becomes a major problem during the rainy season. Some children literally can't go to school because they would have to cross a river if it's a very rainy year. As a result, generally only 1-3 children complete 6th grade in this school. Really puts things into perspective, no?

Following are some pictures of the school, surroundings, and classroom.

Tim McMahon, Martha, and I outside the school building. Blue and white are the national colors, and a lot of schools are painted like this.

One outhouse for the 25-30 children. Apparently the boys find another place to do their business if this one is occupied...

View of the classroom from the back. Just enough room for all the desks, the teacher's desk, and the chalkboard!

Martha sitting in one of the desks. You can also see some of the posters from class projects.

Bookcase holding the workbooks that the children use.

Teacher's desk! In the background, you can see a poster of the children on scholarship, though I think it needs updating.

Botiquin, or medicine cabinet. Teacher = school nurse as well...

Teacher's chair. All of you teachers out there, go give your chair a big hug and thank your principal for taking good care of you!

Class schedule
Poster that shows attendance, food rations (the gov't provides some rice, beans, and cereal to the children), and classroom jobs.

Martha, Tim, and I in the school/classroom

Now, keep in mind this is an example of some of the rural schools here in Nicaragua. The schools in El Sauce proper have more resources, but what you see in these pictures is a reality for thousands of schoolchildren in Nicaragua.

To all of the teachers reading this blog, share this with your students and talk with them about the struggles other children have to overcome to get to school and to get an education. To all the students reading this, think about this next time you are about to complain about doing homework or having to get up early for school. Be thankful that you have a bus to pick you up or parents to drop you off, and that you don't have to walk or bike to school over rough terrain or through rivers to get to school. Be thankful that you have computers and SMARTBoards and don't have to copy lessons from the chalkboard. Think about the obstacles children in other areas have to overcome to get an education, and how much they appreciate the opportunity to get an education, because they know it's their only way out of poverty. Pray that they do indeed realize that getting an education is their only way to overcome the cycle of poverty, and that their teachers wouldn't give up hope for their students and the incredibly important job they have to equip the next generation.

If you're really motivated or moved by this, think about how you can help children in another area, whether in Nicaragua or elsewhere. There are plenty of schools that are seriously lacking in funding, teachers, materials, you name it. I know that the Hilton School District in Hilton, New York is already developing a number of projects to help the schools and community in El Sauce, and I'm eternally grateful for that. Keep up the good work, and please please please let me know what I can do to help your projects be successful while I'm here in El Sauce.

It is really encouraging to see all of the people who are willing to give of their time and money to help others, and I have hope that eventually, if we all work together, every child will have all of their basic needs met, including getting a good education. Just remember, nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something, and every penny, every pencil, every prayer helps. Don't wait for other people to do something, because what if that other person is waiting for you to do something? Think what YOU can do right now, and do it! A child, parent, teacher, student somewhere will thank you from the bottom of their heart. And you will never be the same.

1 comment:

  1. Ok, so I'm not sure why but it keeps changing the titles of the bolded sections. It should read Part 1: San Fernando
    Part 2: Las Limas