Increasing poverty in Nicaragua and its effect on education
Although universal primary education is free and compulsory in Nicaragua, it has never been enforced properly. Preliminary reports indicate that some 700,000 school-age children in Nicaragua did not start their education this year.* Even before the recent global economic crisis began and the country’s aid was cut down by the U.S and the Europe due to a suspected misuse of funds by the authorities, the primary school enrollment here was about eighty percent. And, only 40% of the children who started first grade completed 6th grade.
Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Americas and 47% of its population is below the poverty level. These families earn less than $1 per day and often, children have to work and contribute to the family income. Based on the data collected between 2000-2006, UNICEF estimates that 10 percent of children under five were moderately or severely underweight, and 20 percent were stunted. The current economic crisis along with inflation is only making things worse and experts believe that unemployment and poverty will make it even more difficult for children to attend school.
Although Nicaraguan government has introduced social programs to provide free meals, school supplies and transportation for primary school-age children, the enrollment has only improved from 75% in 1998 to 80% in 2006. According to a recent report by the Central American Governance Institute, Central America is one of the regions that spends least on promoting education and Nicaragua has the worst spending record in this region averaging about $42 per person annually. And, with a decrease in international aid, the spending may get worse this year.
The Millennium Development Goals that were adopted by all the members of the United Nations include achieving 100% primary education rate by 2015. Unfortunately, Nicaragua is way behind the target. Sociologist and economist Cirilo Otero, head of the non-governmental Environmental Policy Initiatives Center told IPS recently that the current economic meltdown has brought the Nicaragua to a standstill but it may soon start sliding backwards.
Tough economic conditions are challenging individuals, government and non-profits on how they spend their money. But then again, education is the only way to protect children from the hazards of poverty, labor exploitation and disease, and give them the knowledge, skills, and confidence to reach their full potential. It is an investment that everyone has to make today for a better tomorrow.
In Nicaragua 50% of the kids that start 1st grade never finish 5th grade. It is our goal to make this percentage drop significantly.
$30/month is what it takes us at Empowerment International to put a child in school. If you would like to help a child stay in school and get better life, please click on the link below or contact us -