During our time in Sarapiqui, we were able to visit a few different schools in the area. During our first couple of days we visited 4 elementary schools that World Leadership School has partnered with to complete projects over the years. Each of these schools varied in size, resources, and needs. The visits really made me appreciate the Town School building (even before the upcoming renovations) and the resources we are provided.
Elementary students in Costa Rica are only in school half day, everyday. This allows the schools to take on two seperate group of kids. One set in the mornings and another in the afternoons. Teachers work the full day, 7-4, and have to teach multiple grade levels. Sometimes the classroom is mixed and other times the teacher teaches one grade level in the morning and another in the afternoon. Substitutes teachers are generally not used and therefore if a teacher is sick or needs the day off it can be problematic.
Resources for different schools will vary in size and the abilty to receive grants. If schools have less than a 100 students, not only do the teachers need to carry out the full school day of class but one of them will also have to act as principal. Parents in the community help by participating in a board that helps govern the school.
El Paraiso, "Paradise"
El Paraiso school was fonded by the parents of the community after many years of children needing to travel over an hour to get to school. Daniel (who you will learn more about in later posts), explained to us that the parents of the community were looking for a better life for their children. Focused on the future, they created a plan. By holding "fiestas" to raise funding, they sent some individuals to San Jose to fight the government. Not wanting to waste money, the individuals that travelled spent money on bus fare, but only travelled with a bunch of bananas that they would eat on their all day adventure as to not waste valuable school funds.
While fighting the government for a school, the people of El Paraiso decided to buy the building. I imagine this was either a pre fab style building of modular classroom. And when they went to San Jose they told the government that they had the school, but they needed the land. Finally, they were given a plot of land and approximately two weeks later the building was set up on the land. With no teacher, no principal and no cook, parents stepped in. Daniel acted as all 3 positions for awhile. Two years later, a high school was built.
World Leadership School recently partnered with El Paraiso and built them a fabulous playground. Using materials that will uphold the elements, are eco friendly, and not too costly it turned out fantastic. El Paraiso was right in selecting this as something they needed. The children are more excited to come to school now because they have a place to play. They come early and leave late. As I have heard some say here in America, a good school is measured by how fast the students come running into the building in the morning and how slow they leave the building in the afternoon. In this case, it is wonderful that they have access to this playground to encourage their love of school when school is open or not. The students are spending more time in this beautiful space.
El Roble's school community is larger and therefore is able to have a principal who doesn't have to balance time with teaching. The school has an outdoor garden/green house area that they use to teach their students. World Leadership partner schools have helped El Roble with a variety of projects. As you will see in the pictures, they recently helped build a basketball court and a library. Can you tell what is missing from library?
The community of El Roble has a few things that the other communities are currently lacking. They have a community center, church and futbol field all centrally located near their school too. These are ammenties to the community and assist with bringing the people together. Communities that have these tend to do well.
Christo Rey school is the largest of the elementary schools we visited. With lots of classrooms and a new computer lab, it would appear that things were a bit easier here. However, Christo Rey's elementary school has come a long way.
We learned that Christo Rey is a blue flag school. A blue flag school is awarded to schools that meet strict criteria with regard to water quality and environmental programs. This was amazing to see, as only a few years ago Christo Rey didn't have safe drinking water and the students had to bring their own water to school. World Leadership helped by bring safe drinking water into their school and by building bathrooms.
With increased confidence in their program, the blue flag award comes with a grant and the school decided to build a playground area for the students with that money. This is an area that the students enjoy and acts a physical representation of their committment.
Christo Rey is also a proud recipient of a grant for a computer lab. You will see from the pictures that they now have a wonderful lab for their students. However, unlike our lab at Town School the computers can only be accessed when the trained computer teacher is there. Sharing this space, and this teacher must be rather difficult. I continue to be appreciative of the technology we are provided at Town.
We learned that Christo Rey, while appearing to have the most resources, has it's own issues. The community is the highest in crime from the ones we visited and therefore the school and playing field are fenced in and the community is unable to use these areas.
The last elementary school we visited was Linda Vista. This is the school that we would spend a few mornings and would likely benefit directly from our service contributions in the days ahead as well. Linda Vista is an extremely small school with only 25 or so children. One teacher, who also acts as principal, is in charge of the education of all these children. When Cecilia is ill or needs to be somewhere else, school is cancelled. Davis is the President of this school community which is unusual as his daughter attends another school. Lucky for Linda Vista though, as Davis is dedicated to the school community and continues to give his time and energy to improving it.
Linda Vista also recieved a playground through the hardwork and contributions made by partner schools from World Leadership School. In addtion, they are in the process of building a futbol field that will be accessible even when school is closed. Unfortunately, the playground is not accessible due to vandalism etc...
Linda Vista was also built a greenhouse to use for hydroponic farming. As you can imagine, Cecelia already teaching grades k-6 in a single classroom hasn't had much time to get the project up and running and the greenhouse sits abandoned. Davis assures us that the hope is that an individual is going to come to the school to help get this project. The project was created and supported with love but we must remember to consider the needs and desires of the community. Needless to say they love their clean water, new bathrooms, playground and soon to be futbol field... hopefully the greenhouse will be appreciated soon as well.
As I reflect...
What can we give to these communities to help? Before we start asking that question of ourselves, it is important to recognize that the community itself needs to give input. Projects and partnerships will not work if we don't include them in these discussions. It's not about what WE can give, it's what THEY want us to give. As for that copy machine...perhaps I should go paperless, avoid the problem all together and be better to our earth.
Stay Tuned. Upcoming blog entries on Eco Tourism, Deforestation, Organic Peppers, My Costa Rican Family, Hosting a Morning Meeting, Boots and Snakes and Service and.... who knows???