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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Education in San Jose las Flores: the reconstruction continues

This is an installment in a whole series of posts I have written over the years on my trips to El Salvador.  We bring down students and teachers and try as much as possible to focus on education.

For North Americans, it is difficult to imagine the poverty and struggles that people in Latin America face every day to make ends meet and live what we would consider a normal life.  Education and health care are two keys areas where the struggle is most poignant.

While here in Canada, we have areas of great poverty, we also have the infrastructure that can support people and we do have excellent health and education services.  Students and educators really need to visit countries like El Salvador and immerse themselves for awhile in these daily struggles.

Travel means entering into solidarity with our sisters and brothers in other countries and I really believe it is essential education.

Education is the key.  I have written about the destruction of this town and its resettlement six years later during the war.  The reconstruction continues today through the education of the children of San Jose las Flores and surrounding communities.

Every time we come to this community, we spend most of our time at the school.  In the education of the children, you can see the long-term response to the massacres of the 1930's and the 1980's.  You can not keep down the creative human spirit.  If you try to crush it, it will spring up again revitalized and recommitted to finding a better way and a brighter future.

we meet the kindergarten class
There are 280 students from kindergarten to grade 9 at the school.  Some of the students walk for over an hour to reach the school every day.  They have a computer lab, a music room, a kitchen that serves meals to the kids throughout the day, a beautiful kindergarten room and an amazing garden!

The school is linked to  schools in the Ottawa area.  Both these schools provide funding each year for projects of importance to the San Jose las Flores community.  The high school also sends students and teachers to the community each year.

There are so many other schools that needs partnerships like this.  The partnerships are really important and there is important learning on both sides.

Nelson is the principal of the school, having been elected by the teachers for this role five years ago. Can you imagine if we could elect our school leaders?  This is a process unique to this community where all important decisions are taken by the entire community.

The school is always innovating.  There are at least twenty projects that students can volunteer to work on.  We spent most of our time going through the huge garden that has morphed into several long-term projects including an irrigation system, a poultry farm, a large-scale composting system, a future fish pond and  wide variety of fruits and vegetables grown to feed the school children.

Nelson with one of the school chickens

There is so much going on here, this really needs to be taken in over a few days. During our last trip, we spent eight days at the school and we were still discovering new projects and ideas. 

I love coming here, there is so much joy, so much promise.  The key in the future will be to find ways to keep these students here in their community.  While the children can go to high school in San Jose las Flores and university in San Salvador, will there be jobs for them when they finish?  

This is certainly a challenge for the new FMLN Government, but at least it is a challenge they are willing to address.  

More on this in the next post.

The kindergarten classroom 

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