It is amazing how much we take schooling for granted in developed nations. I can recall often not really ‘wanting’ to go to school each morning but ‘having’ to attend. It’s not that I was a bad student by any means, actually I was an excellent one, but I think I truly took school for granted like so many others in the world. It was not until my adult life, while living in Central America, that I realized that for many children outside my country, attending public school is often a privilege not a right.
For Josephina (name changed for privacy), school is something she takes quite seriously, despite her many responsibilities that to an outsider would seem more appropriate for a 30-year-old woman than a 14-year-old girl. Josephina seized the opportunity to return to school when in January 2006 Empowerment International announced openings in the program.
Each morning she awakens to the roosters crowing at 5:30 AM. Hopping out of bed onto the earthen floor in her tent-like home made of plastic (like heavy garbage bags), she bathes in the traditional Nica fashion (a “bucket bath”), and dons her pristinely washed uniform and perfectly polished black shoes before walking 2 miles on a muddy path to attend the morning shift of classes from 7 AM to noon at one of Granada’s best public schools, Padre Pablo Antonio Estella.
After classes are dismissed at noon, she travels another 2 miles (further from her home) to the market to purchase supplies so her mother can start on a batch of plantain chips or enchiladas to sell. Josephina has lunch, does her chores and some homework, before going out to sell the food her mother has prepared. She and her sister work from 3 PM to 6:30 PM each afternoon in the streets of Granada. In the evening, she eats dinner then finishes any pending chores and homework before heading to bed. This working family team is common in Nicaragua, especially in the countryside. This family earns about US$40 a month.
In 2006, Josephina was able to return to school with the assistance of EI. It was that year that she began to realize that her future holds many possibilities, far beyond street sales. At the end of the school year in 2006, she announced that she wanted to be a doctor to help all of the poor people that were sick get well. This year she has discovered she has other talents as well while competing in the Mathematic Olympics Competition. Although she took the exam with the best students of each area school, Josephina reported that she was not nervous because she had studied so hard. When the results were announced, the ecstatic Josephina was called for second place. She received a banner with the colors of Nicaragua (blue and white) that stated “Academic Excellence 2007” along with a certificate. With this success, she is now also considering computer engineering as a potential profession.
Josephina is grateful to Empowerment International which has provided her the opportunity to discover her potential in school, motivated her to continue working hard in school, allowing her to become a better student and person each day. Her mother feels very grateful to all the people that make Empowerment International possible because she says that she could not afford to send her daughter to school without their help. She is also extremely proud of her daughter. And so are we at Empowerment International!