Last week, teachers from schools supported by Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge, Cafetalera Nicafrance, S.A., and Exportadora Atlantic S.A. met at finca La Cumplida to celebrate Teachers’ Day a little late and discuss the importance of education to Nicaragua’s future.
Morgan’s Rock sponsors six schools in the San Juan del Sur area; Cafetalera Nicafrance (essentially La Cumplida) helps eight in the Matagalpa area; and Exportadora Atlantic (EA) just recently picked up a school. In Spanish, the sponsoring is known as “godfathering/godmothering” depending on the name of the school (they are named after national heroes, martyrs, etc.). Each seat at the long tables was supplied with a folder, notepad, pen, and calendar provided by EA , as well as a schedule of the day’s activities and suggested readings printed by José Tomás Gómez Valdivia, who is in charge of the whole school sponsoring program under the Nicafrance Foundation, which all the previously mentioned companies are associated with.
The teachers’ motto was “We are teachers, we are love, we are Nicaragua.” This maxim is fully appropriate in all its assertions. Since Nicaragua is, apart from Haiti, the country in the Western Hemisphere with the lowest gross national income, the government hardly pays public school teachers at all, and provides very few supplies such as white/blackboards, writing utensils, books, etc. Any public school teacher in the country has to be in education for the love of the children and hope that circumstances can be ameliorated with proper instruction. In this respect the teachers are Nicaragua, or rather, Nicaragua’s future, since children educated under public school are almost entirely shaped by these selfless men and women. With the help of the Nicafrance Foundation’s sponsoring, as well as donations by foreigners such as guests at Morgan’s Rock, schoolchildren can enjoy better materials and supplies, thus improving their learning and increasing attendance.
Summer Camp, a school program at La Cumplida, offers children teaching during their summer vacation. For two months, around 130 kids learn arts and crafts, math, Spanish, and team-building activities and entertainment. Some XO laptops have been donated by the American Chamber of Commerce in Nicaragua to help them develop computer skills. Apart from education, the Summer Camp’s most important goal is to keep children out of the coffee fields, where in the past they would join their parents to help with the harvest. The Summer Camp is therefore crucial to fight child labor. Sponsored schools are also working to build dance, music, sports, and Microsoft Office programs.
I was able to witness the products of several of these initiatives when children from La Cumplida-sponsored schools shared a typical folk dance with us. Some of the girls were wearing homemade outfits, and the students with XO laptops enjoyed filming some of the cultural display with their built-in cameras. This came after another bit of traditional entertainment: piñata-bashing. The schoolteachers had to dance while blindfolded and whack at hanging cardboard boxes shaped into the figures of a bell and a cake, much to the amusement of all the children waiting to pounce on the liberated candy that showered on the floor. The following video includes some of this enjoyment, as well as a bit of the teachers’ anthem sung at the end of the day.
In between these scenes of diversion, the serious matters of the day were discussed. We watched an inspirational video that described teachers as agents of change using education—the most powerful tool to improve the future—to turn the country from mediocre to successful through the nation’s children. Giovanny Roa, a representative from Exportadora Atlantic, S.A., gave a presentation on the importance of businesses investing more in their workers, empowering them to become not only laborers but also collaborators. Giovanny described RSE, an acronym that translates to Corporate/Entrepreneurial Social Responsibility (Responsabilidad Social Empresarial), as the management tool for sustainable development. Through the sponsoring of schools, he explained, businesses make win/win investments in children that might become future collaborators. Cleaning up playgrounds, repainting walls and desks, repairing roofs, and providing materials all creates a better learning environment that both children and teachers benefit from.
The practice of helping nearby communities is a key element of social responsibility for businesses, and this meeting/celebration of teachers proved that Fundación Nicafrance has had a great effect on public schools around Nicaragua, and will continue to contribute to these needy families.