Where Do They Go From Here?

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” — Henry Ford


In Nicaragua, the academic school year starts in February and ends in December. Ron and I were invited to be a part of two graduation ceremonies this December. The first graduation ceremony took place at our La Paloma elementary school, which has 88 students, 4 teachers, and now the librarian that I hired for my library in the school.

The second graduation ceremony took place in Urbite High School, where our god-daughter graduated. The education statistics are frightful and the state of education in Nicaragua is and has been in crisis and stagnation for many years.

I can’t help but wonder where the graduates will go from here.
IMG_96072014 statistics report that Nicaragua has 1,389,000 pupils enrolled in primary and secondary education. Of these pupils 940,000 (67%) are enrolled in primary education.

I wonder how many of these sweet children will enroll in secondary schools.
IMG_9614Compulsory education is one of the most effective ways of combating child labor. In Nicaragua, children are only required to attend school until age 12…and that is not enforced. Nicaragua was the last country in the region to sign up to the International Labor Organization, which aims to eradicate the worst forms of child labor by 2016. But, even as the government claims that their priority is eradicating child labor, their claims are not supported by any published evidence.

Data indicates that 18% of children of official primary ages 6-11 have never participated in the education system, and are missing out on the benefits of school.

Where are these children and why do they not attend school? If you have lived in Nicaragua for even a small length of time, chances are that you have encountered children selling wares on the chicken buses, at the bus stations, and near the tourist spots.

I wonder, what does the future hold for these lost children?

IMG_9671Nicaraguan teachers are the worst-paid professionals in Central America. The average teacher is living on the verge of poverty, often necessitating a second or third low paying job to support their families. In fact, the average teacher makes about half of a street vendor.

It makes me wonder why dedicated teachers stay in the profession.
IMG_96252014 statistics show that only 9% of Nicaraguan students complete secondary school. it is notable that in the 15-24 age group, approximately 11% of youth have NO formal education and 26% of youth have attained at most an incomplete primary education. This means that 37% of 15-24 year olds have NOT completed primary school education in Nicaragua.

I was told that this year, the government forced all the teachers to promote and graduate all students, even if they were not ready. Countries that don’t educate their students to secondary level with a quality education don’t stand a chance.

I wonder, what is to become of their hopes and dreams. Are the obstacles insurmountable? Do they stand a chance in a competitive world? 
IMG_9733What will happen to this beautiful little girl with dreams of becoming a professional dancer?
Will she be able to keep her eyes on her goals? Or will she drop out of school, get pregnant, like so many teenagers in Nicaragua, and live a life of poverty and broken dreams?

A lack of a quality education not only reduces a child’s chances, but their children’s chances as well. Failing this generation has a domino effect that will fail the next generation.

IMG_9637As I watched the graduates line up for their final school walk, I wondered, “Where will they go from here?”

I hope this to be true for a few of the new graduates, particularly our god-daughter who has a lot of loving support.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

IMG_9691“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Yes, your mountain is waiting. Keep your eyes on the goal. I’ll be planting seeds of hope along your paths. 

Impoverished Teachers, Poor Schools
Poverty in Nicaragua drives children out of school and into the workplace
Nicaragua National Education Profile 2014

19 thoughts on “Where Do They Go From Here?

  1. I feel DR. SEUSS SAYS IT ALL,,,,!! No matter what your education background is….

    Education is lacking ,,,””””everywhere,”””””,,,in many countries worldwide ,,,

    and even in the US….education is falling rapidly,,,,


    do u know when I tell people here, in the USA…..that I’m moving to Nicaragua ..,,,90% don’t know where NICARAGUA is located ,,,,!!!!!!!!!

    AND…they even ASK ,,,IS EVERYONE ,,,SPANISH THERE???????

    ITS AMAZING !!!!!! AND ….SAD…

    SOOO,,, go figure ,,,

    in the meantime ,,,

    You’re on your own and you know what you know,,,

    and “”””YOU “”””” are the one who’ll decide where to go !!!!!!!

  2. Reblogged this on The Weekend Philanthropist and commented:
    For me, the most important thing I can give someone else is opportunity. To be free–to have the opportunity to choose what our lives will look like–we need the basics (food, shelter, healthcare), and then just two more simple things – education and credit. So much of the landscape of our life is decided by when we start to go to school, what our teachers think of us, and how long we stay in. I think every child deserves the best education we can give them.

    Because of how important early and ongoing education is, that’s where we’ve decided to work – more on that coming on Monday! For now, read this local perspective on education in Nicaragua.

  3. I couldn’t have read this at a better time. It’s so nice to get local perspective.

    For me, the most important thing I can give someone else is opportunity. To be free–to have the opportunity to choose what our lives will look like–we need the basics (food, shelter, healthcare), and then just two more simple things – education and credit. So much of the landscape of our life is decided by when we start to go to school, what our teachers think of us, and how long we stay in it. I think every child deserves the best education we can give them.

    • Jefferson, so much needs to be done here in the field of education. Teachers need better training and higher pay, students need to have the resources and the materials to see that they can fulfill their dreams, and the government needs to provide funding and be accountable for the education of their future citizens.

  4. One of the Spanish teachers I have had in Granada told me she had wanted to go to medical school. Unfortunately, there are only a very small number of scholarships available for the whole of the Granada District (meaning that the more densely populated city lowers the odds of anyone getting a scholarship, compared with districts that don’t contain a major city. So, she didn’t get a scholarship and didn’t go to medical school, becoming a Spanish teacher instead. She was a not-bad teacher, but what a waste, when she had the brain and the desire to become a doctor.

    Reading this makes me feel a bit ashamed of all the years of post-secondary education I’ve had/been able to afford/gotten funded or reimbursed. They’ve done nothing to help another person get an education they need in order to move forward in life: themselves and their country. Hopefully, when I am finally settled in Nicaragua I can find a way to change that. You are an inspiration in the work you do, Deborah, and in your ability to call our attention to the many needs of this beautiful yet impoverished country.

    • Claire, when we were watching the procession of high school graduates, we couldn’t help but wonder what tomorrow would bring for them. Ometepe is a poor, agricultural island and educational opportunities are so limited for the young graduates. Those few who want to continue with their education have to leave the island. Without resources and scholarships, they are doomed to swing machetes and have babies.
      A young man in our community graduated last year. He wanted to become an engineer. He studied for the entrance exam to the university with a professor on the island. I was afraid for him because not passing the entrance exam meant not attending the university on a scholarship because his family could not afford to send him to school. Unfortunately, he did not pass and he is stuck on the island without being able to fulfill his dream of becoming an engineer.
      Most of the young people I know have a difficult time doing math. They either have to use a calculator for simple math, or count on their fingers…YES…count on their fingers. My cookie baking helper, who is 15 years old didn’t understand fractions and couldn’t even begin to tell me how to double a recipe. I mean, she didn’t know that 1/2 +1/2 = 1. Very sad.
      There is so much work to be done and I know that it won’t be accomplished in my lifetime. Yet, I can help in little ways to teach them to enjoy reading which will expand their worlds, teach them practical skills like doubling recipes and working with simple fractions, and most importantly budgeting skills. I can sneak these lessons into our library classes. lol

  5. Great question with a sad answer that desperately needs some solutions. We spent several months teaching English both in an all-girls public school in Antigua, Guatemala and at Education Plus in Granada, Nicaragua. We thought Guatemala was poor but Nicaragua truly was an eye-opener. We started our lessons every day with a meal – hungry children have a hard time learning … And you’re so right, Debbie. Without an education there is no way to break the cycle of poverty. Anita

  6. you have captured some beautiful souls w/your camera, and with you and ron as mentors, they will surely have reason to be inspired and to shoot for the stars.

    i’m lucky to be online and see your post come thru, read it and have time to comment! am about to be offline again, but feliz navidad, amiga.. i hope that you’re feeling better now. drink that coconut water!

  7. Hi Debbie. Thank you for all you do! I’ve been reading your blogs and wanted to reach out again to you…esp after reading this blog and one previously about savior complex.
    We have met in your home…in the fall of 2014. Myself, my friend Ron, Hellen from the CICRIN child center and school, and Gael (who was serving at the deaf school).

    I wanted to share with you the program we have going in Nicaragua and on the Island to help motivated students earn a university education as they build up themselves and their communities. Its foundation is in recognizing what is being offered and using what you have received to the best of you ability and to pay it forward through loving and serving others. The program’s name is Talents to Treasures: http://adiosministries.org/projects/talents-to-treasures/

    We have other projects too…one new on land near you.
    This project similarly is based on partnerships and Asset-Based Community Development principles to eliminate (or at least minimize) our human tendency toward savior complexes while looking to maximize the dignity and esteem of all we partner with: http://adiosministries.org/adios-social-enterprises/

    If you have the time and interest, I would love to get your perspectives.
    Dios te Bendiga, hermana. Pete

    • Hi Peter,
      I really need to come visit your projects. Thanks for sharing these with us. Let’s plan on getting together after the holidays. I am very interested in seeing what you are doing. And yes, I remember meeting you. I am thrilled that you took the time to read this post and comment. Hugs to you.

I'd love to read your ideas and thoughts below....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.