Nicaragua’s public education system is one of the poorest in the Americas. Public spending on primary and secondary education is very low (a mere $62 per student per year according to the most recent data). The lack of funding is a function not only of the poor economy (Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere) but also of budgetary constraints imposed by the IMF and of the lack of political will to improve the education system by the current government or previous ones.
One of the consequences of this system is that a significant percentage of Nicaraguans never attend school or drop out before completing primary school. Many of these people never learn how to read and write or have limited literacy skills, restricting both their work opportunities and their ability to survive and thrive in a culture that assumes literacy.
For this reason, the Center makes provides free basic education courses for adults who want to learn or strengthen their literacy and numeracy skills. Three levels are offered, and those who complete Level III receive a primary school diploma from the Ministry of Education, making them eligible to attend a secondary school or enroll in technical courses.
In total, 28 students graduated this year: eight from the Level I, six from the Level II, and 14 from the Level III. Graduates ranged in age from 15 to 65 years old. While most Level I & II graduates plan to move on the next level of study, seven Level III graduates plan to continue their education at a secondary level while nine have expressed interest in enrolling in a technical course at the Center.
Last month, these adult basic education graduates celebrated the end of the course year at the Center with an impressive ceremony. In addition to the delivery of diplomas and public recognition of the students’ achievements, graduates, their family and friends, and others who attended enjoyed several cultural performances including two songs performed by the Center’s youth flute choir and two folkloric dance pieces presented by one of the Center’s youth dance troupes.
But the highlight the evening was without a doubt a speech given by a student graduating from Level I. With his hands trembling slightly but his voice projecting confidently, José del Carmen Morales Carrasco, 51, demonstrated his newly acquired literacy skills to all present, delivering the following testimony:
Good evening classmates. Good evening to everyone that is here today.
Tonight it gives me so much pleasure to be sharing with all of you this moment of happiness. We have reason to be happy because we made the decision to come here to enroll at the Cultural Center in order to change the way we live. Knowing how to read and write, we have more job opportunities. It changes the way we live in all aspects, social and economic.
For this I give thanks to God for letting me live until this moment and for inspiring me to study.
Thank you to all the staff at the Center for putting into practice the talents that God gave you to help the one who doesn’t know.
I thank my professor and guide who would always insist that we never miss even one day of class. Because of this, today I am harvesting the good fruit of the work you did over the course of the year.
José del Carmen was celebrating his first graduation ceremony. He hopes to celebrate more graduations in the years to come.