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School visits in Nicaragua

Road to Malpaisillo near Leon

Road to Malpaisillo near Leon

Today was quite an eye opening experience for me.  I went with Ronald and Oscar to visit two schools.  The first school was the Sagrado Corazon de Jesus School in Malpaisillo, in the Apante Central Community in Nicaragua.

It was about 100 km from Managua, give or take.  There was quite a bit or driving on unpaved roads to get to this school.  It is rainy season, so a lot of the roads turned to thick, thick mud.  Some parts were even covered with water.  The school consisted of about 8 classrooms, and taught 628 students from all around the community.  Most of the students had to commute to school, with many children walking 4 to 6 kilometres each way.  The ones that lived further away had to do a combination of walking and public bussing (not provided by the government) for 10 to 12 kilometres each way.

I remember growing up and living about a 1km walk away from school, and the bus picked me up at the door every morning to take me to school.  When school was over, the bus brought me straight home.  When senior elementary school rolled around, I had to walk an extra 30 metres to catch the bus.  Tough life!  There was even someone who got a bus ride to school, and he lived directly across the street.  It was quite funny, as he was the last person picked up in the morning, but also the last person dropped off at night.  The 45 minute bus ride home was ridiculous, considering he lived less than 40 metres from school.  I guess the school board did not trust him to cross the street himself.

Bathroom for 628 students, and teachers at Sagrado Corazon de Jesus School near Leon Nicaragua

Bathroom for 628 students, and teachers at Sagrado Corazon de Jesus School near Leon Nicaragua

 SchoolBOX is building a smaller classroom for this school that will hold around 22 students.  They are also building a block of bathrooms with a septic tank for the 628 students and teachers.  Currently the bathroom that they use is the two bathroom unit pictured to the right.  Needless to say, the sanitation conditions are not up to par for the students.  Most of the teachers will try to hold themselves, and the children will either use the bathroom pictured, the field behind the school, or they will go to surrounding houses and ask the people in the community to use their facilities.  The stench of the old bathroom was quite overpowering, and the current facilities are definitely not condusive to a healthy learning environment.

For some reason, the children were on holiday at this school.  We were told that they were off for their break until the beginning of the year.  Certain schools in Nicaragua work off of different timetables.  Today, when we arrived, a group from the community was there to talk to us.  They thanked SchoolBOX for raising the money to build the classroom, and the sanitation facilties.  They also spoke about other needs within the community.  It was stressed that the only way for the partnership to work was if the community worked together in order to help grow the school.

The second school that we visited was the Ruben Dario School in Leon.  It is actually in the Ruben Dario district.


Ruben Dario School in Leon Nicaragua
Ruben Dario School in Leon Nicaragua

This was a very interesting school.  Pictured on the left is the school currently.  Before SchoolBOX found this school, and started construction, it did not look like this at all.  There were only a few classrooms, and there was no recreation area at all.  The recreation area as seen today, was actually covered with classrooms.  These were not traditional classrooms, but shipping containers with no windows and a single door.  If you leave a metal box in the sun for a few hours, whatever is inside will not be very confortable.  The children were basically studying, and trying to learn in makeshift ovens.

Since there was no recreation area, the children actually hung out, and played sports on the street.  This was definitely not a good environment for learning, and also for general safety.
SchoolBOX has built 7 classrooms, a recreation area, and bathrooms for both students and teachers.  When I was there today, I saw many children that were very happy, running around, and having a good time.  The environment was uplifting.
Classroom in Ruben Dario School
Classroom in Ruben Dario School

I spoke to the director of the school, and she outlined that they were very thankful for all the hard work and effort that put into the school.  She spoke about the safety hazards and the enrollment rate after the changes to the school.  Children are now very proud to go to the school and happy about their surroundings.

More and more students are going to enroll next year because of the excellent facilities that Ruben Dario School offer.
We were shown a computer room that had 40 brand new computers in it.  These computers were donated by the municipality.  When SchoolBOX decided to help Ruben Dario School, it was contingent on the municipality donating computers to the school.  SchoolBOX now helps in determining which schools require computer equipment within Nicaragua.
The director was extremely excited about the donation of computers and said that the children will now have a better chance to succeed in life.  Right now, only a few are exposed to the internet and are computer literate.  The children at the school are very excited about the prospect of computer classes next year, and the teachers are very happy, as they have a new tool to create lesson plans.
After today’s visit, I have a renewed sense of what others take for granted.  Most of the world has to live in these conditions or even worse on a day to day basis.
Tomorrow, I will be visiting another few schools, before rounding out my week in the office.
Categories: Nicaragua
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