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Increasing poverty in Nicaragua and its effect on education

May 4, 2009

Although universal primary education is free and compulsory in Nicaragua, it has never been enforced properly. 3080236381_6162dc64e2Preliminary 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.

* According to a new article published by the Inter Press News Service(IPS).
- Shamala Pulugurtha
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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 -

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 22, 2010 11:34 am

    Hi. I´m journalist and I have seen all that everyday here in Nicaragua. The worst thing is both, goverment and civil society, do not have a plan to improve life quality of poorest people.

    • David Geffeney permalink
      October 2, 2010 5:50 pm

      Some of us are trying. We are getting ready to build and orphanage and schools. Location TBD still though.

  2. David Drezner permalink
    January 22, 2012 5:28 am

    I am currently volunteering in a school in Granada.This article is correct as far as my experience and the information from people in the field inform me.

    The problem is to put the resources where they do the most good. Heres the chokepoint:

    Most of the poorest families, and I work with some of them, only live in tin shacks with 4-8 people per shack. They seem to eat well enough. They seem to get electricity where I work. I don’t see starvation signs in the kids that come to our school. I don’t see hunger suffering there, though there ARE a bunch of kids, probably orphans, or kids of drug addicted parents, who sniff glue. They are a problem, but less than say, in Mexico city. The level of parental care here seems to be fairly high. The kids seem happy and loved for the most part, though some seem a little starved for attention.

    These kids go to school, are taught as best they can be taught with a BARE minimum of school materials. I´m talking whiteboard, notebooks, and some other materials of lower cost. They have computers in our school, but they were bought with money from overseas, not from the Nicaraguan government. They try hard as they can, but many have pre-school children they bring to school for them, For us, Pre-school is more of a babysitting service, so the kids that want to go to school can do so while their sisters and brothers are being cared for. They get home, and they work, hard as a child can work, either babysitting or something else. There is not even a desk in the home, let alone a book, and the parents couldn’t help them with homework if they wanted to. In short, the culture of manual work dictates against wholesale educational success.

    Still, its important to try, and sites like these are at least trying to do something for a few kids, and for that they are to be applauded.

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