By Nan McCurdy and Katherine Hoyt
Since 2007, when the Sandinistas returned to power, until 2023, Nicaragua’s education budget has increased by a staggering 457%. Nicaragua places children and families at the center of all its educational policies. An inclusive multicultural model at all levels of education has been developed, from preschool through technical and/or higher education, in order to build sustainable and resilient communities.
The number of teachers has increased two-fold and teachers enjoy continuous training to ensure high quality education.
The Ministry of Education has particularly concentrated on education in the rural, Indigenous, and Afro-descendant communities and prioritized the preservation of languages and Indigenous cultures. The installation of internet and provision of computers in schools has increased dramatically. Support for English as a second language has increased.
The education curriculum and teaching in multiple languages in the autonomous Caribbean regions of Nicaragua are also a government priority.
Education from primary through university education has been free since President Daniel Ortega returned to the presidency.
At the beginning of the 2023 school year, 24 renovated schools were inaugurated, improving the learning environments for students and teachers. The rehabilitated and expanded schools are located in Nueva Segovia, Madriz, Río San Juan, Chinandega, Estelí, Zelaya Central, Las Minas, Boaco, León, Carazo, and Chontales. The investment of US$2.85 million included construction and renovation of classrooms, storage units for the food for school meals, administrative offices, and libraries as well as water and sanitation improvements, playground equipment, desks, acrylic blackboards and more.
Another example of the commitment to education are the 14 new schools that were inaugurated in April with a cost of more than US$1.1 million. The schools are located in the Departments of Matagalpa, Río San Juan, León, Managua, Jinotega, Estelí, Rivas, Chinandega and Boaco. Also, four other school infrastructure projects are starting in the municipalities of Santa Teresa in Carazo, Ciudad Antigua in Nueva Segovia, and Mulukukú on the North Caribbean Coast.
British teachers have highlighted the quality of the education system in Nicaragua. British educator Heather Marcano said that the integral education that students receive reflects the reality of a country rich in culture, natural beauty and generosity. During the annual conference of the National Educators Union of the United Kingdom (NEU-UK), in April, members of a recent delegation to Nicaragua shared their experiences. Labour MP Christine Blower confirmed the Union’s commitment to continue the teacher exchanges with the Nicaragua Teacher’s Association (ANDEN) to support English as a second language education and deepen relations of friendship and solidarity between the two teachers’ unions.
School meals, a flagship program of the government, strengthens the educational system and is undoubtedly an example for other countries to follow in terms of investment in education. A school meal is guaranteed for more than 1.2 million children including preschool and primary students and secondary distance learning students and ensures a plate of food in the classroom. The school meal program reaches the farthest corners of the country such as Ometepe Island in Lake Cocibolca, which can only be reached by water or air.
The emphasis and availability of technical education has grown enormously. The Nicaragua Technological Institute (INATEC) report on the results of the 2023 Professional Training Plan stated that, between January and August of this year, 24,484 students were trained in 167 trade courses, 11 technological courses, 17 tourist services programs and 58 empirical work certifications. INATEC is offering enrollment in 66 technical areas in its 153 centers throughout the country and, for the sixth consecutive year, five technical areas will be taught online. Of the students trained this year, 74% are women and 26% are men. The schools had graduated 13,265 students nationwide as of September 12. This program is promoted by the government through INATEC and the Mayors’ Offices to strengthen the knowledge, skills and talents of young people and adults. At a national level, more than 500 courses are being developed, among them: Motorcycle Repair, Barbering, Cooking, Pastry Making, Creative Sewing, and Handicrafts, among others.
On Feb. 27, the Monimbó Heróico Agricultural Technical Center opened to serve more than 3,000 students. Technical classes on agriculture, livestock, agronomy, agroindustry, and animal husbandry, in addition to 15 courses related to the production of fruit pulp and nectar, sauces, liqueurs, among others. This is the third technological center to serve the Masaya Department and is the first agricultural and livestock center promoting production, trade, and entrepreneurial and productive culture which will generate more development opportunities. The government invested US$5.6 million in the Institute. See photos: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/monimbo-heroico-atendera-a-mas-de-3-mil-estudiantes-tecnicos-en-masaya/
On May 29th the Women’s Technical Training Center of El Cuá, in the Department of Matagalpa, where more than 2,000 young women are now being trained by the National Technological Institute, opened its doors. The school has classrooms and research labs, training and technology development areas “to obtain better results for production with the energy of the women.” Work will be done on production of seeds, composting vegetable matter for coffee crops, non-traditional crops, and courses for agrotourism. And, in June, US$3 million was invested to expand the Masaya Departmental Technical Center, ensuring greater access for 6,415 students to free, quality technical training.
The government has established cultural schools in 159 communities, where courses are taught in areas such as dance, singing, choir, guitar, drawing, painting and more. The mayors’ offices contribute to the restoration of the right to culture of children, young people and adults, guaranteeing art for all in urban and rural areas.
In August, September 8 was declared the National Day of the Nicaraguan Huipil by presidential decree. The huipil is a garment used in festivities and traditional dances and is a reflection of the culture and pride of being Nicaraguan. The declaration said that it is the duty of the State to promote the rescue, development and strengthening of the national culture, based on the participatory creation of the people. The identity, traditional values, symbolic and artistic aspects of the huipil were declared as intangible, artistic and cultural heritage of the nation. See photos: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/declaran-el-huipil-patrimonio-inmaterial-artistico-y-cultural-de-la-nacion/
Public Servants are being trained on inclusion and accessibility of people with disabilities. In July INATEC reported that US$400,000 has been invested in the Carlos Fonseca Center in Managua to train public servants with methodologies that guarantee visibility, inclusion, and accessibility for people with disabilities. INATEC General Director Lloyda Barreda stated that “The center will offer 20 academic courses to public servants that will be taught by specialists from the medical care for people with disabilities to the inclusive special education programs that Nicaragua is implementing to guarantee the promotion and restitution of rights of people with disabilities. These courses are essential requirements for teachers, police officers, firefighters, members of the army and other public servants.”
The Museum of the Great National Literacy Crusade (CNA) of 1980 was inaugurated on August 23 at the Heroes of Nicaragua History Institute of the Casimiro Sotelo National University. At this site is housed the history of the CNA embodied in documents, books, images, paintings and other resources that are symbols of this great deed. The reopening of the Museum and the reinstallation of the Institute of History made it a historic day for Nicaragua and for this University, since they are spaces that rescue the true history of the country. See photos: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/abre-sus-puertas-museo-de-la-cruzada-nacional-de-alfabetizacion/
The smallest citizens have not been neglected either. Over the past 16 years, 244 government child development centers have been created. The neo-liberal governments from 1990 to 2006 privatized or closed most of the day care centers created by the Sandinistas during the 1980s. As a result, thousands of families faced the dilemma of finding care for their children. Often, one of the spouses, almost always the wife, opted to stay home to care for the children, and income decreased. That situation has changed radically. Child Development Centers (CDIs) have multiplied and from the 32 that barely made it through the fateful 17 years of neo-liberal governments after 1990, they have now grown to 276, all subsidized by the state, all with trained personnel, all with specific programs to instill values and knowledge in the children. These centers serve 16,500 children under age six who receive comprehensive care, food, weight and height monitoring, early stimulation and education and more. See photos: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/en-16-anos-el-gobierno-ha-creado-244-cdi-que-atienden-a-16500-ninos/
Education in Nicaragua’s penitentiary system was recently highlighted by the international news channel Russia Today (television and web). The outlet broadcast a report describing the Nicaraguan program to introduce education for men and women at all levels in the country’s penitentiary centers as an example to the world. “In Nicaragua,” said the Russian television report, “the government initiative to provide the right to education in the penitentiary sector is progressing successfully. This increases the chances of a better future for inmates.” For example, 36 inmates of the Bluefields Penitentiary System graduated in May as high-level technicians in administrative information technology after studying on Saturdays for two years. The technical classes were organized by the URACCAN University and the Ministry of the Interior so that these men and women can contribute to society once they complete their sentences. See photos: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/reos-se-graduan-como-tecnico-superior-en-informatica-administrativa/
Teacher education is recognized as important. Seven hundred new teachers will graduate this year from Nicaragua’s eight teacher training colleges, reported Professor Alina González, General Director of Teacher Training at the Ministry of Education (MINED) in October. She said that the young people will graduate with specialties such as early childhood education, special education, inclusive education and bilingual education for the Caribbean Coast. “These students will return to their territories where we have great demand. We have five specializations among which Bilingual Intercultural Education stands out, since it allows children of native peoples of our Caribbean Coast to receive classes in their mother tongues from early education on,” explained Gonzalez. The current enrollment in education courses is 6,000 young people, most from rural and remote areas.
By Nan McCurdy
PAHO Praises Nicaragua’s Healthcare Model
The Pan American Health Organization representative, Dr. Ana Elena Chévez, highlighted Nicaragua’s commitment to guarantee access to a universal, free, and quality healthcare system. Dr. Chévez said that, “Through the Family and Community Healthcare Model, emblematic programs like the Maternity Homes and Healthy Women have achieved significant reduction in maternal and infant mortality. And the more than 40 National Vaccination Campaigns held annually allow the country to register one of the highest vaccination coverage rates in the region. Programs like these demonstrate a strong political, economic, and social commitment that fosters an educated population committed to their healthcare from prevention to treatment.” She went on to say, “At PAHO we are convinced that this model is contributing to the global goal of universal healthcare and achieving the Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. This is why we are proud to support the efforts of the authorities of the country and we believe it is a worthy example for other countries that should ask themselves: How has Nicaragua achieved this?” (Nicaragua News, 24 October 2023; Canal 13, 22 October 2023)
Government Raises Public Servant Salaries
Public employees who earn a monthly salary of 40,000 Córdobas (about US$1,000) or less, will have a salary increase applied as of November, announced Vice President Rosario Murillo. “We have been recovering thanks to the efforts of all Nicaraguans and now this increase will improve the lives of so many workers.” The decision benefits 161,301 public servants. And in November workers also receive the thirteenth month Christmas bonus known as the aguinaldo. (La Primerisima, 25 October 2023)
Successful School Enrollment Campaign for 2024
The Ministry of Education announced that the 2024 School Enrollment Campaign has reached 96.3% of its projected goal for the 2024 academic year with 1.7 million students enrolled. (Nicaragua News, 25 October 2023)
Lonely Planet Highlights Nicaragua
On Oct. 27 the international tourism platform “Lonely Planet” published its “2024 Best in Travel” ranking, highlighting that Nicaragua is the third best destination in value to visit in 2024. “Nicaragua is a top budget destination worldwide. This Central American country offers surf, sun, colonial cities, tropical forests, hidden islands, 78 natural reserves and much more.” (Nicaragua News, October 31, 2023)
Strengthening Professional Technical Capabilities
The National Technological Institute (INATEC) presented a report on the results of the 2023 Professional Training Plan. Between January and October of this year, the 153 municipal trade schools throughout the country trained 26,000 students in 167 trade courses, 11 technological courses, 17 tourist services programs and 58 empirical work certifications. INATEC Director, Lloyda Barreda noted that students “have decided to formalize and expand their natural capabilities to start their own ventures or perform with greater knowledge in traditional trades.” (Nicaragua News, 26 October 2023)
INATEC Awards Certificates to 12,000 Workers
The National Technological Institute is awarding certificates to 12,000 workers who have completed courses as bricklayers, assistants, assemblers, cooks, bakers and more. Enrollment for the upcoming 2024 school cycle is advancing to 97.4% of projected enrollment. (La Primerisima, 25 October 2023)
Punta Huete Airport to Be Largest in Region
The construction of the first phase of the Punta Huete Airport will cost US$491 million, resources that have already been secured from a Chinese company, reported Óscar Mojica, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. There will not be another airport like this one in the Central American region, he said. The air terminal could receive up to 3.5 million passengers, 2,000 annual flights, a runway 3,600 meters long and 75 meters wide for very large airplanes. (La Primerisima, 26 October 2023)
MINSA to Vaccinate Girls against Human Papillomavirus.
The Ministry of Health will carry out a vaccination campaign against the human papillomavirus (HPV) for girls between 10 and 14 years of age. The vaccination campaign will take place from November 6 to January 15, 2024. The viruses that cause HPV can be a risk for cervical and vaginal cancer. About 90% of cervical cancers and 70% of vaginal cancers are related to HPV. (La Primerisima, 29 October 2023)
October 30, Caribbean Coast Autonomy Day
On October 30, 1987, the National Assembly approved the “Statute of Autonomy of the Regions of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua” making Nicaragua the first country in Latin America to approve an autonomy regime for the native peoples to provide themselves with their own government authorities. “For us, autonomy is a life project not only for the coastal people, but for all of Nicaragua,” said Caribbean historian Avelino Cox, a native of Bilwi in the North Caribbean Autonomous Region. In February 1990, elections were held to elect the first Autonomous Regional Councils. Each Regional Council (South and North) has 45 members and its composition is multiethnic: all the ethnic groups and Indigenous peoples are represented in them. Historian Cox considers that since the Autonomy Law came into effect, the Caribbean region has changed and the law has led to “our recognition as a people; because before that, the coastal people lived isolated from the rest of Nicaragua.”
One of the main achievements of autonomy is intercultural bilingual education. Cox said that with the Sandinista Government in its different stages, autonomy has been strengthened. “Then, since 2007 with President Daniel Ortega, Autonomy gained a vigorous impulse not only because of the works carried out but also because since that year the autonomous regional governments have had sufficient resources of their own to meet the needs of the Caribbean peoples. In particular, there are projects that have changed the lives of the Caribbean peoples: the road linking Bluefields to the Pacific; the bridge over the Wawa River and the road to Bilwi; almost 100% of Caribbean families have electricity, and potable water service in all urban centers in both regions.” See photos: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/30-de-octubre-dia-de-la-autonomia-de-la-costa-caribe/ (La Primerisima, 30 October, 2023)
Sandinista Government Proclaims Nicaragua’s Full Respect for Human Rights
Nicaragua made an important statement before the United Nations General Assembly to denounce the lies and manipulations against it and to proclaim the full and authentic respect for the Human Rights of the Nicaraguan people. In his intervention, the Alternate Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the UN, Jasser Jimenez, denounced on behalf of the Sandinista Government the “totally biased report on Nicaragua” issued by the UN Human Rights Council, which included an unequal assessment that “lends itself to the manipulation and instrumentalization of human rights for other purposes and hegemonic pretensions, derived from imperialist economic and political interests.” To see the entire speech in Spanish: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/gobierno-sandinista-proclama-plena-vigencia-de-los-derechos-humanos-en-nicaragua/ (La Primerisima, 31 October 2023)
Foreign Direct Investment Grows 29%
Foreign direct investment (FDI) reached US$1.447 billion in the first semester of 2023, 28.9% higher than the same period in 2022, according to Nicaragua’s Central Bank. Investments were mainly for the expansion of infrastructure of companies already operating in the country, the opening of new projects, and the reinvestment of the profits of established companies. FDI represented 17.3% of GDP; 27.2% of the investments were in the manufacturing sector (US$236.2 million); 24.7% in the energy and mining sector (US$214.8 million); 23.8% in commerce and services (US$206.6 million); and 11.8% to the financial sector (US$102.8 million), among others. In the first half of 2023 most capital was from the United States (US$178.7 million), Panama (US$167.6 million) and Spain (US$76.7 million dollars. (La Primerisima, 30 October 2023)