During a recent trip to Nicaragua as part of a joint monitoring mission, we had the chance to visit a few schools to see the impact of a GPE-funded program that, together with funding from other donors, is making a big difference in improving access to early childhood education and its quality. Our first stop was the Ruben Dario School in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, located 3 hours north from Managua.
Designed to resemble a castle, with freshly painted white and blue external walls, the new preschool building of the Ruben Dario School, has played a key role in ensuring that young children are motivated to come to school. Built with support from a GPE grant of US$16.7 million, the new building has contributed to improved learning conditions.
The inside of the preschool is vibrant. Sunlight comes in through large windows and the interior is colorful, making the atmosphere inviting and child-friendly. The design was innovative as other preschool buildings followed the same design as primary and secondary schools, despite younger children having different needs.
The new design was carefully thought out to be ergonomically adapted to younger children and to foster a stimulating learning environment: the green of the interior wall is meant to be restful to children’s eyes; the windows are low enough so that children can see outside; and the large building gives ample space to the 41 students currently attending the preschool.
Full of energy and enthusiasm, the children gather around a table with their books and crayons and start coloring. They look focused on the task at hand. Other children grab toys or actively play in the sandbox located just outside.
The community is pleased with the improvements. During an interview, Jose Rodolfo Sanchez, the school’s Director, said that the previous buildings were run down and the roofs, walls and floors had deteriorated. Now, preschool children have their own space to learn and interact. Mr. Sanchez is pleasantly surprised: “The children are now motivated, radiant, and happy (…) we consider that one of the positive changes that this program brought was to motivate and lift the spirit of the education community.”
Maria del Carmen Herrera, the pre-school teacher, echoes Director Sanchez’s comments: “The new school infrastructure has improved the quality of education as well as the individual care that each child receives. For us, the teachers, this has been a great investment. Also, the parents of the preschool children are very happy and the children don’t want to leave when the day ends” Ms. Herrera has also received teacher training under the GPE-funded program.
Parents agree that their children are happy and more motivated to attend school. They know that educating their children is the key to a better future. In conjunction with the new environment, parents are also more involved in the school. For example, mothers help to clean the building. They have agreed a rotating cleaning schedule. Parents are also more involved in the parents’ association, which now includes more parents than before.
The new preschool building of the Ruben Dario School is one of 37 schools that have been constructed under the education sector strategy program supported by GPE and other partners. Some of the objectives of this program are to increase access and improve learning conditions of preschool education in Nicaragua.
In addition to financing the improvement of school infrastructure and learning materials, the program also focuses on teacher training, developing an integrated system to monitor and evaluate early childhood development, and developing and aligning the curricular instruments.
To date, this program has trained 6,790 teachers, community educators and educational advisors, certified 2,321 community and formal teachers, distributed learning materials to 53,938 preschool students, and elaborated the conceptual and methodological framework of the new monitoring and evaluation system.
The interventions are being implemented in 43 selected municipalities throughout Nicaragua, which has sparked a renewed enthusiasm for children to go to school throughout the whole country. Now children like Johnny don’t want the school day to end and can’t wait to return to “their castle”!
Learn more about GPE’s work and results in Nicaragua