“Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.” ~ Kofi Annan
The average years of schooling for adults in Nicaragua is 4.6 years. After attending four graduations this December, we will never again assume that all Nicaraguans have the opportunity to graduate from high school. Guillermo, our head contractor, is a good example of the fortitude, initiative, and desire needed to transform one’s life through education.
Guillermo walked a long road, filled with insurmountable obstacles, enabling him to graduate from high school last Saturday. His mother died when he was a boy growing up in the gold mining territory of Nicaragua. Since compulsory education only requires schooling for six years, Guillermo quit school to work in the gold mines beside his father. He had just completed sixth grade. At 12 years old, he and his father worked side-by-side extracting gold dust from the pulverized rock. When he turned 18, he enrolled in the Nicaraguan army. For the next two years, Cuba became his home.
Life happens. Guillermo fell in love, married a woman from Ometepe Island, and started his family. When we hired him last year to build our house, he had been unemployed for eight months. Previous to that, he had to leave his family on the island and return to work in the gold mines with his father to support his family.
Guillermo’s dream was to become a building contractor. He realized that he lacked the mathematical skills and educational background necessary for steady employment, so at the age of 37, Guillermo returned to school to finish what he had started several decades ago.
Last Saturday was graduation day for Guillermo and his daughter, Fabiola. Ron and I were both honored to be their escorts across the bridge from poverty to hope. Their educational journeys have only begun. In February, Guillermo and Fabiola are attending the university on the mainland. Fabiola is studying to become a lawyer, Guillermo…an architect.
Education is a human right with immense power to transform. It is a tool for daily life in a modern society, as well as a bulwark against poverty. It is the means through which every human being can realize his or her full potential. I am immensely proud of Esther, Julio, Gloria, Guillermo, and Fabiola for taking the difficult and sometimes nearly impossible steps toward a beautiful metamorphosis. Life does indeed happen, but for these determined graduates it has given them a bridge to cross from poverty to hope.