Nicaragua: A trade union project re-ignites enthusiasm for education

published 11 June 2017 updated 22 August 2017

In Nicaragua, the activities conducted by CGTEN-ANDEN to create a child labour free zone in La Dalia (a district of Matagalpa) have fostered new enthusiasm for education in the region. 83 teachers from 31 schools received training on topics such as communication and negotiation techniques, leadership abilities, and others. The union also provided certain schools with some teaching materials (games, history books, tape recorders) as well as materials for decorating the classes.

"Thanks to the training course, I learned how to better communicate with parents, said Marling Cardenal Averruz, a teacher at Slilmalila primary school. I have also gained a better understanding of the reason for which it is important to improve the class environment. The materials received enable me to decorate the classroom with the students. I improved my teaching skills thanks to the games we learned to use during the training courses. I also developed contacts with community leaders in the school surroundings. Together, we attempt to help parents when they give reasons for being unable to send their children to school". No children have dropped out of Slilmalila primary school since this project's launch in early 2016.

After completing the training, the teachers visit the homes of the children at risk of dropping out of school in order to inform them about the importance of education. They use notebooks to write down what was said during each home visit: commitment signed by the parents to send the child to school, reasons for absenteeism, etc. "The teachers are better equipped to convince parents thanks to the training courses, but also because we have disseminated news of the project's existence throughout the region and of the support it has from the authorities, said Bernarda López, the national coordinator for the project within CGTEN-Anden. CGTEN-Anden created radio spots against child labour which are widely broadcast on local radio stations. We also installed anti-child labour posters in the schools, and provided teachers with baseball caps and bags bearing messages that encourage education".

"Some teachers visit at least two families every week, even if the families' children attend the classes, said Bernarda López. Those teachers have understood that direct communication with the families is very important for the students, and the parents are grateful that the teachers are interested in the children's wellbeing. At every monthly meeting with the parents organised at the school, the teachers address a different topic related to child labour, the importance of education and values (self-respect, non-violence, etc.) ».

Teachers form learning circles

Students from schools in which no teachers took part in the training have asked to be transferred to schools involved in the project: they have heard that classes are more enjoyable, that the students play while learning, and that the teachers give more interesting exercises. The teachers who attended the training courses given by CGTEN-Anden and others have set

up leaning circles for the purpose of increasing the quality of education in each school. In a few areas in the region of La Dalia, the enthusiasm for education created by the project has led the Ministry of Education to open adult literacy centres, partly because the parents expressed their desire to follow and support their children's schooling.

The directors of the school in La Dalia have reported a drop in the number of early school leavers and the return of former child workers to school. "A better environment and improved teaching increase the feeling of happiness among children in school, explained Bernarda López. The teachers involved in the project feel better prepared, and are therefore more enthusiastic in their daily work. They have told us that they needed additional training on how to properly use new teaching materials (such as puzzles), and we therefore organised a few additional sessions".

CGTEN-Anden considers the development of this area free of child labour in La Dalia to be a pilot project. In the longer term, the union intends to use it as a model for other projects in other regions of Nicaragua. It has published several articles and videos aimed at disseminating information about the project's success within Nicaragua's teaching community.

Find out more about child labour free zones here