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School in a Garbage Dump

Girl studying at Jezreel School in the Anexo la Primavera in Managua

Girl studying at Jezreel School in the Anexo la Primavera in Managua

I was going to write about something more uplifting today, as yesterday’s entry was quite depressing to some.  There is great hope for the future, but things need to change. 

Today I visited two schools, and what I saw will stay in my head for the rest of my life.I will write about two schools that we visited today.  They are both in very poor neighbourhoods in Managua.  The first school was eye opening (Jezreel), and the second school (Juntos Contigo) was downright shocking as it was literally located beside a garbage dump.

Jezreel School

Jezreel School is located in a very poor squatter neighbourhood in the Anexo la Primavera in Managua.  In order to better understand this school, it is worth noting their history.

Jezreel School's previous location between two buildings. You can see that the rain has caused flooding.

Jezreel School's previous location between two buildings. You can see that the rain has caused flooding.

Ronald from SchoolBOX discovered this school a few years ago.  He stumbled across a group of students studying in an abandoned housing lot between houses and a shop.  The classes were all open air, with walls made of salvaged scrap metal.  When it rained, the classroom floor turned to mud, when it poured, the classroom floor turned into a huge puddle.  When it was sunny out, the children were studying in extreme heat.  These conditions were much better than previous conditions when the first school started.  It was started when a group of women in Jezreel School’s previous location between two buildings. You can see that the rain has caused flooding.the community were fed up over the lack of eduction.  One woman went door to door within the neighbourhood and talked to many families.  She indicated that if they wanted to learn, then they would meet under a tree the next day.  The following day, the Jezreel School was born.  Children from all over the neighbourhood came to the tree, and sat on the ground, or plastic chairs, and started to learn.

Over the next few years, the school moved 7 times, including the location between the two buildings when Ronald discovered it.  In 2007, SchoolBOX rented the Jezreel School a secure building, and since then have been supporting it with rent and basic school supplies..
Today, I visited the present school.  It was in a building This school houses approximately 200 children between preschool and grade 6.  The roads leading to this school are all unpaved, and with the recent rain in Nicaragua, they have become large pools of mud.  The school was quite empty, the community is located between two large ditches, and when it rains, the children cannot cross, as large rivers become obstacles.  The government also asks that the children stay at home whenever rain causes flooding, as it can spread disease.
The children that made it Jezreel School

The children that made it Jezreel School

When we arrived, the school was actually flooded, as part of the roof had too much water on top of it.  The entire floor was wet.  The director spoke of how they were going to raise part of the roof with an extra steel beam they had found.  This would be a temporary solution.

Five children made it to class today, and one teacher was helping them with their work.  All of the children were very happy to be there, and knew that education was the key to success.

We were shown the classrooms, and they were quite small.  Picture the school…  It is a long building.  The school is split into classrooms  that are between 4 metres by 4 metres, and 3 metres by 3 metres.  The classroom that was 3 metres by 4 metres housed over 20 students.  The classrooms were split up with pieces of cardboard, so you can imagine the noise when full.

The teachers at the school are all volunteers.  SchoolBOX helps support the teachers, because the state cannot pay them.  They end up earning less than 1 dollar a day.  Their passion is what drives them, as they want children in the community to succeed.

Third grade class with over 20 students in a 3m by 4m space
Third grade class with over 20 students in a 3m by 4m space

Afterwards, we took a walk around the neighbourhood, and it was shocking.  houses made out of scrap metal, raw sewage in the streets, cardboard lining the side of houses, and garbage everywhere.  I was told by locals that over 45% of the country lives at or below this level.  This was very shocking and eye opening.

The plan in the future is to build a new school for these children.  The school currently helps about 200 children, but the director at the school indicated that there are over 200 more that can benefit.
I could not imagine anything worse until I got to the Juntos Contigo School which is located beside a dump.
Juntos Contigo School
This school is located in one of the poorest, most dangerous neighbourhoods in Managua.  I was told that it was not safe to walk around the neighbourhood even during the day without a guide or a local.  Luckily, we were lead around by Ruben, who was the director at the school.
Juntos Contigo School in Anexo Carlos Martinez in Managua, Nicaragua
Juntos Contigo School in Anexo Carlos Martinez in Managua, Nicaragua

The school is an absolute maze to get to.  There is no way you can get there without a jeep, or a 4 wheel drive vehicle.  As stated before, the school is located right beside a dump.  It teaches approximately 100 children.  60 in the morning, and 40 in the afternoon.  There are approximately 270 children in the neighbourhood that can go to school.

SchoolBOX provided a sanitation system to the school, and in addition it provides school supplies twice a year to the children.  They also provide toothbrushes and toothpaste to the children, who see it as an insentive to go to school and brush their teeth.  Finally cookies and milk, as well as a small stipend for the director is taken care of.

The children in this community were very aggressive, as they live in a very aggressive neighbourhood.  Gangs roam the steet with guns and knives, and families have to do whatever it takes to survive.
Little girl in Anexo Carlos Martinez
Little girl in Anexo Carlos Martinez

Part of surviving means earning a living.  Since the neighbourhood is located in a dump, families (including sometimes children) will scavenge all day in order to pick up enough plastic or metal to resell.  I was told that 1kg of plastic fetched about 2 cordobas from the recycling centre.  This amounts to just over 9 cents.  Think about how many plastic water bottles make up 1kg.  (ANSWER – 12.7grams  so about 79 plastic bottles).

On the way to the dump, we walked through the neighbourhood.  It was in much worse condition than the previous neighbourhood.  Open sewers were present as well, but the stench was much worse, as we were beside a dump.  Children were running around with no clothes on as well, and animals were also running around.
Dump at Anexo Carlos Martinez
Dump at Anexo Carlos Martinez
At the dump, there were horrifying scenes of people picking up trash.  It was really hazardous, as trucks were backing up and dumping their contents out. 
As soon as the truck backed up 20 or so people lined up behind the truck, and dived into the garbage.  On a “good”  day, there are thousands of people working at the dump doing this work.  The dump has been open for 60 years, and some families have 3 generations of people who have done the same thing. 
The smell of the dump was horrible, and watching the people work away was very emotional.  It is hard to understand how people can live in this environment.
The community and the school has received support from many NGOs and aid agencies over the years.  There have been remarkable improvements over the years.  The children are more approachable, they are receiving daily instruction, and they have hope for a better future.  For a history on this school, please see http://www.juntoscontigo.com/.  The website is in Dutch, but can be translated easily.  It is a must read.
There has been great progress over the years, but there is still a long way to go.
*When I get a chance, I will post some video clips
Categories: Nicaragua
  1. Maka
    November 10, 2010 at 06:36

    Querido Jon,
    Cannot help to feel bad when I read this. This is the sad reality of not only Nicaragua but most of the countries in Latin America.
    Eduaction is one of the main issues but you will be surprise to find this same idiosyncrasy also in public universities and public hospitals for example. There is still a lot to do…we are talking about a social problem here.

    I’m very glad you are having this experience. Take care!

    Un abrazo

    • jon
      November 11, 2010 at 17:09


      This is true. I have only witnessed first hand what it is like in some places in Nicaragua. Most locals do not even know the situation, as they are shielded from it.

      I wonder what the situation is like in other countries, as Nica is the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Only Haiti is more poor.

      I am discovering new and sometimes not so wonderful things everyday, but that is what this is all about.

      Hope all is well


  2. Stephanie
    November 8, 2010 at 08:24

    Keep writing about this, even if people find it depressing….you’re doing important work raising awareness!

    • jon
      November 8, 2010 at 16:23

      Thanks. This was a really difficult trip to make in my first week in Nicaragua. It definitely made me want to work even harder. I actually showed the pictures to some locals, and they were shocked at the conditions that others within their own country live in.

  3. Roman
    November 5, 2010 at 08:08

    Very nice blog Jon, thanks a lot for sharing your impressions.

    I travelled byself a lot in those regions of the world, and its opening your eyes a lot, especially seeing that the people there even living in such conditions have much more friendlyness then you can find here in our “Perfect” world.

    Cuidate y suerte….

    • jon
      November 6, 2010 at 12:07

      Thanks Roman.

      I will be travelling a fair bit around these parts, and may touch on you for some advice in the future.

      All the best


  4. Ann Harrison
    November 5, 2010 at 07:37

    Wow Jon.

    This is all very unfair. It makes me rethink my complaints about my dresser not matching my bed frame. This is such a daunting situation to try to “fix” thank you for doing your part. The blog is very good. It brings awareness about these countries.

    • jon
      November 6, 2010 at 12:09

      Life is sometimes not fair. People in rich countries are certainly not complaining about their situation. As long as people are aware of situations like this, maybe small steps can be made


  1. November 26, 2010 at 06:41

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