Getting a Quality Education in Pankawás, Nicaragua
Leocadia Hernandez, a grade 11 student in Pankawás village in Nicaragua, dreams of becoming a nurse. At age 30 she’s older than a typical secondary school student, but she is determined to complete her education after having dropped out years before due to illness. She is well spoken, confident and immensely grateful to be able to be able to continue her schooling close to home.
This is possible as Leocadia’s community now has a secondary school. She no longer has to make the long trek to school, by foot, to a neighbouring village.
According to a study by our partner, Change for Children, the communities in Nicaragua’s Bosawás Biosphere Reserve felt that the lack of school infrastructure like school buildings and desks was one of the greatest obstacles for their children’s education. Once children finished primary school they had no secondary school to go to in their own communities.
Of course, they could walk to a school in a neighbouring village. But for girls this was problematic as the long walk meant they would have less time for household and family chores. Parents were concerned about their safety and then there were appearances and norms: it was just not something that was done. In traditional indigenous communities, girls tended to stay close to home.
To address this glaring need, we decided to fund the construction of two secondary schools – one in Pankawás, and another in Aniwás. Construction of both schools was completed in 2017.
The community made us feel so welcome
When we arrived in Pankawás, the local schoolchildren, their parents and the community leaders gave us a wonderful reception as we got off our boats.
The 5-classroom building is colourful with a full-size mural on the outside wall. Inspired by a visit from an Alberta teacher brigade in 2017, local teachers had organized the classrooms by subject – math, science or language – and painted learning tools like the alphabet, math terms, and inspirational sayings on classroom walls. Altogether, the school had a very welcoming and stimulating atmosphere.
Students attend secondary school all day Friday and Saturday. They must work around the home or help earn income during the rest of the week. From Monday to Thursday, the school handles the overflow of children from the primary school. There are some 250 students from Pankawás and surrounding communities, including about 70 high school students. The grade 11 class has 9 students who all expect to graduate this year.
When we invest in girls’ education projects, it is our hope that young women will get the chance to develop their potential to gain the knowledge to help themselves, their families and their community. The impact of these new schools is so inspiring!
Leocadia doesn’t know yet how she will find the means to continue her studies but she has an innate belief that it will happen. I have no doubt that this wonderful, determined young woman will achieve her goal.
President and Founder, 60 million girls