A Short Stay in Nicaragua

In 2010, I visited both Costa Rica and Nicaragua as part of a volunteer organisation based in London, England. Leaving a worried mother and father at home I embarked on a three month trip that, little did I know, would be the best three months of my life so far. I was assigned to a project based in La Vanilla, a small village on the outskirts of Achuapa, Estelí, where about ten families resided. I lived with a family of eight in a two-room corrugated iron hut. Living amongst the locals was the best way to do it as I learned a lot about their struggles, their successes and their general everyday activities. It seemed to me that the main problem was with education or the lack of access to it. The school there was made up of three rooms, with one acting as a lunch / music hall and the other two as classrooms. What stood out was how the textbooks, that supposedly taught English, were incorrect and thus, the students were not learning anything of value. A second issue lay in the fact that they had no consistent teacher. The family I lived with told me that it was a touch and go situation as to whether a teacher would turn up for school that day. After more questioning I learned that teachers are not held in high regard in Nicaragua, much like other countries. The average wage for a teacher in Nicaragua is well below that of a market worker and in actual fact Nicaraguan teachers are amongst the worst paid professionals in Nicaragua. Indeed, they are amongst the worst paid workers in Central America.
Recently, a Nicaraguan economist by the name of Adolfo Acevedo, who is a independent research professional, said that,

“The glass ceiling for the quality of education is the quality of teachers. And there is no way to attract better and more qualified teachers to the profession if people can earn twice as much doing just about any other job.”

Indeed, this statement may be on the right lines as it is obvious that if teachers continue to be among the lowest paid workers then the supply of teachers as well as the demand for teaching jobs will decrease. Leaving Nicaraguan education in a state of disrepair. In order to alleviate this problem, the issue that must first be addressed is the lack of funding for teachers. The average wage must increase, attracting a better-educated group of teachers that have the capabilities to teach young Nicaraguans and to be able to sustain a lifestyle that will sufficiently support them. When the Sandinista government first came to power, they claimed free education for all. President Ortega went as far as to say that education will be a "priority for his administration" and deployed a nationwide literacy campaign. Although the past government may have caused the problem of a lack of funding for education in Nicaragua but it appears that the new government has done nothing to change this. Indeed, the situation has been called "stagnant" as the issue of underfunding continues to be a problem. In a developing nation such as Nicaragua, where funding for education is difficult due to other national expenses, it will be critical to ensure that the appropriate funding is directed to teachers training and increase salaries in order to ensure quality education for all.

Author: Maddie Owen (Pangea Proxima Intern) 

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