Having a Local Secondary School Changes Lives. Here’s Why
During our trip to Nicaragua’s Bosawás Biosphere Reserve, the 60 million girls’ team visited the remote village of Aniwás. In 2015, we partnered with Change for Children to build a local secondary school here so that students could complete their education.
As we learned more about the community, it became clear that the secondary school was a very welcome addition. The community even erected a plaque to honour 60 million girls’ investment.
Having a local school helps students overcome one of the key barriers to education: their obligation to help their families with household chores and farm work. Both of these activities are time consuming and when coupled with a long walk to a school in a neighbouring village, it is almost impossible to accomplish both.
In this indigenous area, a 2016 Change for Children survey found that most parents believed their daughters had a right to go to school, but it was important for them to help at home too. The children themselves – boys and girls – were very keen to go to school, and even more so when they had their own local school.
The chart below shows that, while 85% of girls wanted to go to school, the percentage who thought they’d be able to make this happen rose to 97% following the school construction. It was a similar story for boys. While they may not have household chores, working to support the family is much easier if the commute to school is shorter.
Data source: Change for Children survey, 2016
Global out-of-school numbers stagnant
Research clearly shows that universal secondary school has significant benefits. A World Bank report last year found that, when girls complete secondary school, they gain significant advantages: higher earning power, lower rates of child marriage, fewer children, better health for themselves and their families, more say over family decisions and finances, along with greater participation in governing and local institutions. That’s huge!
While children in Aniwás now have a secondary school, completing 12 years of education remains an impossible a dream for millions around the world.
Recent data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) show that almost 62 million children of lower-secondary school age (typically ages 12-14) are out of school. That number rises to a staggeringly high 134 million for older teens. The interactive map below shows where these out-of-school teens live.
Some children who are currently out of school may find their way back to the classroom, even if they are over-age (like Leocadia in our previous blog) but, for those who don’t, life will be harder.
In addition to making important life choices like when to marry and how many children to have, Change for Children’s survey shows that local children are better able to pursue jobs which interest them. Due to available role models, often these jobs also correspond to occupations that exist close to where they live.
A few facts about the secondary school in Aniwás
The student population is around 480 students, with 90 local students currently attending the secondary school every afternoon. Another 40 more from outside the community make the trek to school only on Saturdays, traveling by boat since it is an extremely difficult, long and dangerous journey by foot.
At the primary level, 290 students attend school in the mornings and use all the classrooms in both the primary and secondary schools.
- 30 students will graduate from secondary school this year.
- 55 will graduate from grade 6.
- There are even numbers of girls and boys in primary and secondary.
- There are 128 children in kindergarten.
- There are 8 primary school teachers.
Interestingly, all secondary school graduates would like to continue their studies. While primary and secondary school in Aniwás is free, going to college remains a costly proposition and most students will only be able to do so with scholarships.
How to ensure high quality of education?
Of course, we know that just sitting in a classroom is not enough. Children must be learning to get all the benefits of an education. Learning requires trained teachers, and high-quality educational resources that can engage and interest the students.
We are hopeful on this front as well. We travelled to the Bosawás with a representative from the Ministry of Education. He had never been past the town of Wiwili (the last town accessible by car) to visit any schools in Bosawás so the visit was eye-opening for him as well. Maybe his experience will lead to further changes to give young people better access to the learning tools they need.
Further, our friends and partners from Mundo Posible are exploring the possibility of bringing a Mobile Learning Lab to the area. This would enable teachers to have better training while giving students access to more interesting and up-to-date educational tools. However, bringing technology to such a remote area can be challenging, primarily because most people here have no experience with computers or even smartphones. This means that the learning curve for teachers would be particularly steep; they’d have to learn how to navigate the technology and get comfortable with the content before being able to relay that information to their students.
From the children’s perspective, though, as we have seen all over the world and in our own homes, children have an affinity for technology and quickly adapt to new ways of learning. In fact, the interactive teaching method (SOLE, see previous blog) espoused by Mundo Posible, facilitates children’s learning in the best way possible: by making it fun and interactive.
Another challenge is language. Most families here speak the local Miskito language with limited understanding of Spanish. We know that mother tongue education is most impactful so we’d have to address this barrier to make the best use of the Mobile Learning Lab in this indigenous community.
These potential difficulties aside, the teachers at the Aniwás school were extremely interested in the content on the RACHEL – the mini server at the heart of the Mobile Learning Lab. A few teachers who did have a smartphone stayed connected to the RACHEL, even after the session had finished.
Traveling through Guatemala and Nicaragua has been an amazing experience for all of us. We learned so much about the communities we are supporting and we hope that our blogs are helping you understand what we are doing.
Thank you so much to all of you who contributed to making our projects in Nicaragua possible. We couldn’t have done it without you! Did you know that 100% of your gifts go directly to supporting children in need? This trip was self-funded so that your donation could be put to the best use possible.
President and Founder, 60 million girls