Learning about Education, Religion, and Women's Issues

Our afternoon charlas (chats) this past week have discussed the Nicaraguan educational system, religion – specifically liberation theology, and issues for women in Nicaragua.

We learned some sobering statistics from Ivette Fonseca, an educator and consultant on educational issues.  Education is required only through the 4th grade in Nicaragua.  This creates many challenges, especially because many poor families don’t understand the value of a good education.  Nicaragua has a flexible school year, so students can start anytime throughout the year, but this makes it very challenging for teachers.  Also, more rural students often miss several days of school each week during the harvest season because they are needed by their families to help with work.  Students needing to repeat grades and those that drop out of school and re-enter create the issue of more than 50% of students being in lower grades than their age would suggest.  Teacher salaries are also low, which creates little incentive to become a teacher.   Nicaragua has many challenges ahead in providing quality, affordable education for all it’s young people, but also has many people working on addressing the issues.

Omar Monterrey, a pastor and leader of CIEETS (Center for the Study of Inter-church Theology) helped us understand liberation theology, which were an outcome of Vatican 2 (1962-65).  The two major leaders of liberation theology – Gustavo Gutierrez and Leonardo Boff – helped develop the methodology of liberation theology – Ver, Juzgar, y Actuar.  Ver (to see) = go and see what is happening to the people and how they are suffering;  Juzgar (to judge) = go to the Bible and search for how to solve the problem; Actuar (to act) = act, find solutions to suffering and what can be done.

The Catholic Church of Nicaragua has historically been the predominant religious and has been very involved in politics.  Some of that influence is decreasing as Protestant/Evangelical churches are increasing.  Today, Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua, says that the country is 60% Catholic, and 40% Evangelical, but Monterrey thinks the percentage is closer to 50/50.

Karla Ramirez educated us on the importance of women in Nicaragua.  Women played an valuable role in the 1979 revolution, and many women’s organizations were formed as a part of the revolution and are still active today.  Today, woman are considered the head of the household, and in the majority of households, the woman is the only head and there is no male/father.  Because of the active machismo culture, domestic violence is a problem.  Students broke into small groups to discuss the differences and similarities between US and Nicaraguan women’s issues, and then presented their discussion points to the other class members.

Upcoming topics for this week include Nicaraguan health care, agriculture, literature, and environmental issues.  There is always more to learn!

Also this week, we were invited by a Baptist church youth group to a volleyball game in Diriamba on the street in front of the street.  The volleyball game turned into a soccer game at a nearby turf field, but the students still enjoyed the exercise and interaction.

We ended our weekly reunion (group meeting) this week by celebrating Mary and Anna’s birthdays with chocolate cake and local sorbetes (sorbet).  Happy Birthday!