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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Escuela San Jose Las Flores

Kindergarten students in San Jose las Flores

No doubt that the trip to El Salvador left unforgettable memories for everyone of us, mainly because this trip was so wonderful and very inspiring in many aspects: beautiful tropical scenery, genuinely hospitable people, a very interesting history of the country with current and past social justice issues and an absolutely amazing group of people to travel with.

For me, the highlight of this trip was a visit at the elementary school in San Jose Las Flores, Escuela San Jose Las Flores.

I heard a lot about the school prior to the trip. Personally, I was wondering if what I was going to see would not disappoint me and didn't. Even more, I still marvel the experience, I only wish I could have spent more time there.

Someone would ask: what is so special about the school in El Salvador. My answer would be: everything.

An African proverb says: “It takes a whole village to raise a child” and the school in San Jose Las Flores is an excellent example of it.

On the way to school!

The school was rebuilt by the community after the 12 year Civil War. Settled at the bottom of beautiful tropical mountains is a home to students from Kindergarten to Grade 9. Students there not only engage in learning and extracurricular activities but also look after the school in many other aspects: cleaning, helping in the school kitchen, and tending the school garden. Their garden is the heart of the school.
It provides not only learning experiences for students but also extra food: vegetables, fruits, herbs. They even have couple of hens. The garden idea came from the school principal, Nelson, a few years ago. With help from the village community the garden grows and prospers. Everything grown there is organic. Nothing gets wasted: coke bottles and plastic bags are used for plant starters, even an old toilet has its function – how about using it as a flower pot?

Why the idea of a garden?

In order to make sure students will be able to attend school every day, present democratic government, FMLN for the first time in El Salvador's history, has been providing children with school uniforms, school supplies, and a daily meal (milk, beans, rice), the school provides the rest, fresh produce from its garden. In many cases students will eat better at school than at home.

Next year, there are plans to produce fish to enrich kids diet and set up an irrigation system.
Walking through the garden we bumped into students and teachers working there. Parents and local villagers also help.

At school students were walking, some running and enjoying their breakfast sitting on benches surrounded by lush, tropical flowers. No teachers on duty (sic!) but everything seemed to be so orderly. A bell rang, some groups quickly disappeared in classrooms, another appeared for breakfast. Everyone looked very happy, younger students were eager to engage in conversations with us.

The regular day at school is divided into two educational shifts: morning for primary grades, afternoon for junior and intermediate. The other half of the day students spend engaged in extracurricular activities of their choice: music, art, working in the garden etc.

Nelson, the school principal, was enthusiastically telling us about his next plans. Interestingly, when he talked about problems his school, teachers and students face, he did not complain, his focus was on the solutions. Such an amazing person, a true visionary who can not only talk about his vision but can deliver it at the same time! His hard work and commitment get people involved.

That evening we visited his family for coffee and homemade cake. The other evening you could spot Nelson sipping beer with locals and chatting, I bet about his new ideas.

Next time you are vacationing in Chalatenango region in El Salvador make sure you visit Escuela San Jose Las Flores in San Jose Las Flores. I can guarantee, it will be worth the effort.

Nelson talking with our interpreter (also named Nelson)

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