Saturday, November 21, 2015

Nicaragua Fails to Educate

Our purpose for coming to Nicaragua was to educate. Education takes on several forms: religious, academic, vocational, and social. All four of these components are necessary to the growth and maturity of a person.  We focused on the vocational while always including the religious and social. Our eyes were being opened as to the quality of academic education in Nicaragua when some of our boys were attending public schools.

During their first year living with us, the only school that would accept the boys was a small, private catholic school.   At their current age, they should have graduated from high school, not entering the last 2 years of elementary.   After a brief informal assessment by the school director, Noel was allowed to skip 2 grades and James was entered into the 6th year for the first time of his life to ever go to school. We are forever grateful to the staff at San Sebastian for taking a chance on our boys. They were always at the top of their class academically and socially.

Such was not the case when they attended secondary school (high school).   The report cards reflected a problem with academics.  We engaged a tutor for the boys so they would not fall behind.

We began to find that the problem was not so much with the boys learning but with the lack of teaching.  We moved across the street from the secondary school that one of our boys attended.  There were days that the classrooms had no teachers.  There was never any control over the students when the teacher was in attendance. There were many days that class or school would not be in attendance because of political rallies that were mandatory for the students to attend.

During the spring of  2014, there was no school for 2 months because of continuous earthquake activity. When school was reconvened, the boys came home to say that they needed 300 cords each for a particular class.  The shutdown had not allowed the teacher to finish the curriculum and it was time to move on to another.  He would give the boys a passing grade in exchange for the money so they would not have an incomplete on their report card.  Our tutor made a trip to the school to talk with the teacher to tell him that no money would be paid.

We were furious and it motivated us to action.  We had always talked about a deeper level of academia for the guys that we were involved with.  Now was the time to make it happen.

Let me share some statistics with you:
    1.  Only 51% of the students complete up to grade 5.
    2.   Less than 30% entering secondary school graduate.
    3.  94% of students fail the college entrance exams the first time.
    4.  The entrance exam passing score has been lowered to 54%.
    5.  The average teacher earns 60% less than other jobs.
    6.  If there are not enough educated Nicaragua teachers, the only requirement is to have completed                    primary school.   Only 26% of teachers have graduated in higher education.
    7.  There are no text books in the classroom.

We've spent over a year researching and talking to educators to gather information that we could use to form a school and build a curriculum.   Our program will be like no other because of the advanced years of those seeking to further their education.

Our tutor and her husband, who teaches math on weekends have shown a desire to be involved in the program.  We have known them since our very first visit to Nicaragua.   They've always shown a lot of interest in our work and the guys.