Matt and I recently returned from our trip to Nicaragua during which we were able to visit the Global Giving/International Partners in Mission-sponsored project, “Working Teens Educated in Nicaragua”. We would like to take this opportunity to tell you our first-hand impressions of the project.
On Friday evening, June 15, we met Rafael Valdez at a bus terminal in Managua in hopes of seeing the Night School in session. Rafael drove us to the Night School located within the Jorge Mitroy barrio in the south-central zone of Managua. Unfortunately school was not in session since it was raining outside; however, Rafael was able to give us a tour of the facility and tell us at length about the program.
As you know, the “Working Teens Educated in Nicaragua” project works to educate teenagers and young adults who have not been able to receive education through the public school system. At present, the program allows participants to receive up to a sixth grade education in three years and presents graduates with a diploma acknowledging their accomplishments. Their diploma is officially recognized by the national education system and entitles those who receive it to continue with higher education at high school or vocational programs. (Please note- this program differs from many other adult literacy/education programs within Nicaragua which do not provide officially recognized diplomas).
Through our conversations with Rafael, it became clear that the importance of this education program must be understood in the context not only of the present condition in Nicaragua (it is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere and the unemployment rate within Managua is 80%), but also its recent past. In the early 1990s following the Revolution and change in political power, there were many children that were sent to work in the fields to support their families or were drawn in some other way away from their education. After a certain point, these children were no longer able to return to school because of overflow issues and for the simple reason that you cannot have teenagers in a kindergarten class within the Nicaraguan educational system. This left an education gap in a generation of children who are now teenagers and young adults. It is these teenagers and young adults that the “Working Teens Educated in Nicaragua” program seeks to help. Rafael’s vision for the future of this program is to complete the primary school education of the teenagers and young adults, so the program may concentrate on providing these students with a high school level education. The merit of this program was clear in its contribution to both the enrichment of individuals’ lives and building an educated Nicaraguan population.
Toward the end of our visit, we asked Rafael to share with us an example of a success story from the program. We think you’ll find (as we did) how complex the measure of success is given the challenges of the impoverished state of Nicaragua. The story is as follows: Prior to her enrollment in the “Working Teens Educated in Nicaragua” program, one Nicaraguan woman was struggling to support herself in the informal market by selling soda and snacks on the side of the road in the Jorge Mitroy barrio. After enrolling and graduating from the “Working Teens Educated in Nicaragua” program, she successfully continued her education by taking accounting classes. She then secured a job as an accountant just like her husband. However, Rafael explained that due to the weak economy in Nicaragua, the combined wage of both parents is still not enough to comfortably support this family. While her rise from selling soda on the street to gaining professional skills is a measurable success, her story is indicative of the greater challenges faced in bringing the Nicaraguan population out of poverty.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to see this program first-hand; we really enjoyed being Global Giving Ambassadors. This experience has further strengthened our support for Global Giving and its sponsored programs.
Students at the Teen Night School in Managua, Nicaragua, deal with the same issues of peer pressure that students at American high schools face. Recently, leaders of the Teen Night School have seen an increase in this behavior. “The primary challenges the school must confront on a daily basis are the problems in the neighborhood. The delinquent behavior is seen as a social problem that has to be resolved with social methods structurally designed by the state through more education, healthy activities and diversions so that the young people and their parents have more opportunity to be employed.”
As a result, students of the school (along with adult leaders) have addressed this program through group outreach and mediation. Providing positive social programming and adult guidance for youth is important in Managua, where youth with no education have limited prospects for creating a healthy and stable future. Last year, 137 students and 546 community members benefited from the Teen Night School.
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