Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and its education system has suffered as a result. Much of the current problems began before the Sandinistas came to power in 1979, under the Somozas that was thrown aside to make way for other political issues. The limited spending on resulted in many adolescents being forced into the manual labor market. It also limited educational opportunities for the majority of the . The result was only about 65% of primary school children were actually enrolled in school. Of those who made it to first grade, 22% finished their remaining six years of primary school.
Three quarters of the rural population was illiterate and rural schools only offered one or two years of schooling. Secondary educational institutions were private and too expensive for the vast majority of Nicaraguans. Some 8% of the population enrolled at university and some upper-class families sent their children abroad where education standards were considered to be higher. There was a lot of work to be done in order to improve current deplorable education standards.
The Ministry of Education then made further efforts to increase the literacy of the country by setting up Popular Education Cooperatives whereby residents of poor communities could gather together in the evenings and make use of materials supplied by the Ministry to try and develop basic reading and mathematical skills. While these self-education classes were designed mainly for adults, many children who were struggling to get into the already overcrowded schools also made use of it.
The next change that the Sandinistas made to Nicaraguan education was that of reshaping the higher education system. Besides making higher education more accessible, they replaced law, humanities and social sciences with agriculture, medicine, education and technology - all of which would benefit the country to a greater degree. However, despite all these efforts Nicaragua was still home to a largely uneducated society by 1993. The largest problem by this time was to provide enough educational facilities for the rapidly growing population. There was even a decline in literacy from the level reached by the end of the 1980 literacy campaign.
However, there is hope on the horizon as young people in this country are becoming increasingly more interested in receiving a better education in Nicaragua. Currently 65% of the population is younger than 25 and both elementary and high school education are now mandatory and free. Several Nicaragua universities have formed an affiliation with various universities in the . The Nicaraguan government is increasing funding to improve the education available in the country and promotions have also gone a long way to increasing the level of enrollment in tertiary institutions.
If you are interested in making a donation to the Journey to Nicaragua '11 trip I will be accepting donations from now until September 30. The goal is to bring school supplies to aid 24 students. Leave a comment below or email me directly via gmail or facebook.