The school in Siminka on the banks of the Coco River in Nicaragua’s Bosawas biosphere reserve is nearing completion on the day we journey here. We make our way up the river bank, across the pasture, past the goal posts, the church, and the health post, and wind down the well-trodden path toward the site of the construction. We gather an entourage along the way as folks emerge from houses with kind greetings and join this official unofficial community gathering. There is a buzz.
The new school here is the talk of the town. Quite literally. Parents, teachers, secondary students, and members of the indigenous government gather on the partially poured sidewalk to voice excitement and appreciation. (Primary students, on the other hand, run in and out of newly painted classrooms, climb in and out of windows not yet shuttered, and test out the acoustics (and the echo!) of the empty classrooms). No matter how it manifests – energy abounds! There is a buzz.
Beyond the more obvious impacts of the school — creating a quality environment, increasing capacity and opportunities — investment of this nature in Siminka impacts the greater community in less tangible ways as well. The sense of pride and of possibility that outside investment brings is obvious as we visit with community members both young and old.
We sit down with secondary students and over and above a keen interest in sport (there is even a girl’s soccer league now!), we are encouraged to hear talk of furthering education even beyond secondary school and also about returning to use new skills in this community they call home.
The director of the school, Elizabeth del Carmen Urbina (responsible for 8 schools in the district) sees this new infrastructure as not just a ‘school’, but as an ‘institute’. As the only secondary school in her district, she simply cannot over-state its role in further promoting secondary school attendance by students both near and far.
Even the elders — born and raised in Siminka, when there was no school here at all — are enamored with providing students a ‘dignified place for learning’.
There is a buzz.
Fast forward to today – just a few short weeks since our visit – and the school is complete! Parents, teachers, secondary students, and members of the indigenous government are, as we speak, gathering on that newly completed sidewalk. And while the primary students can no longer climb through window openings, if they jump, they can peek through the shutters and into the classrooms whose echoing properties are now dampened by the presence of desks and chairs.
Today, this very day, inauguration of the school in Siminka is no doubt the talk of the town.
Let’s keep the conversation going.