"I love to study": Improving education in Nicaragua
Anna Raquel, age 7, from Apante Grande, Nicaragua, is already well on her way to being a leader. While other students stare out the window or talk amongst each other in class, Anna Raquel watches her teacher with steadfast concentration.
“I love to study,” Anna Raquel says, “and I love my school because it is beautiful.”
Anna Raquel attends primary school in the rural community of Apante Grande in north-central Nicaragua. It is an area rife with poverty; small homes constructed of mud and tin-siding line the dirt lanes, whose residents are largely subsistence farmers. For the past four years, CARE has been working in the Apante Grande school to provide students with a high quality education.
We are improving the quality of education by providing school supplies and equipment, establishing student governments and tutoring groups and training teachers to create more effective and dynamic lessons.
“Now teachers get together each month to create lesson plans. We do it collaboratively to get advice from one another,” explains Sonia Matuse Mairena, a schoolteacher for the past 18 years who last year became the director of the Apante Grande school.
“In the classroom, communication between teachers and students has improved, and you can see that students are more confident as a result.”
Because parents heavily influence their children’s success in school, the project also raises awareness among parents about the importance of education and encourages their active participation in school activities.
“There are many parents in this community who can’t read and write – maybe a third of the parents altogether. But, most of them want their children to succeed in their education,” Sonia says.
When children drop out of school, it’s almost always for economic reasons, because their parents need them to work.
Recognising the harsh economic realities facing families in this region, the project strives to make parents understand that the long-term benefits of completing an education outweigh the short-term economic gains accrued from pulling a child out of school to work. Doris Rodriguez Urbina, a single mother of four children, understands this. Her youngest daughter is attending the Solomon Ibarra Mayorga school, another CARE supported school a stone’s throw away from Apante Grande.
“If you are not educated, you cannot find good work,” Doris remarks. “I didn’t have the chance to go to school, but I don’t want my daughters to have to work from four in the morning until sundown on a farm like I do.
I want them to have something better. If they don’t want to go to class, I talk to them about what the problem is.
Sonia and her fellow teachers check-up on students when they don’t come to class – a practice encouraged by the project. “When students are out of school for three of four days, we (teachers) visit their homes to talk with the parents and see what the problem is,” Sonia says.
“Altogether, parents are more involved in the school now. They help us with rehabilitation projects and organise recreational activities for the children. We also have a group of mothers who cook lunch everyday for students,” Sonia explains.
“For me, PROGEDES’ biggest contributions have been increasing retention rates and motivating students to be leaders at school and within the community,” Sonia remarks. “Last year we had a 100% retention rate.”
For students like Anna Raquel, who already asserts confidently that she wants to be both a teacher and a doctor, a quality education is a ticket out of the vicious cycle of extreme poverty. In 60 schools in six municipalities of Nicaragua, CARE’s project is working to improve the quality of education to give Anna Raquel and thousands of other students the chance to realise their ambitions.
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