During the COVID-19 pandemic, it got quiet around our Destination Projects. We have not had updates for you in a couple of months. Today, we are back with some new information about the Free High School in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. With your support, we built a beautiful, sustainable, and high-functioning campus in 2018. Together we gifted a home for an existing institute that provides the highest quality secondary education and a government-certified diploma to under-served adolescents and adults, rural and urban, that are excluded from the regular high schools.
Adjusting Teaching in a Pandemic
We recently received news from our friends in Nicaragua. The Free High School (FHS) carefully reopened in May. While the 13 middle schools in the area around San Juan del Sur operated using physical distance under strong hygiene rules, FHS’s Saturday School and Technical Institute will remain physically closed to students.
On May 2, 2020, the teachers began teaching online from the computer lab or the classrooms of the campus (much thanks to the organization Child’s Play for the campus technology that makes this possible.) The teachers hold classes virtually with some instructions provided live in a video chat format. Many assignments and videos will be recorded and stay online for two weeks. The teachers are also using messaging applications to keep in touch with students that need support or to offer one-on-one videoconferences.
Connecting to the Unconnected
Most of the students have responded amazingly well to the new online teaching. But it also has its own difficulties. As you may know, many students do not live in the city but in the rural communities, with some closer to San Juan del Sur and others far out in the countryside.
Some of them (up to 120 students, most in their last two years of classes) cannot access lessons. Many of the outer barrios do not have internet connections in their communities, not to mention not having computers! Some students try to study on borrowed phones, but it is often not possible to borrow a phone with enough time to keep up with assignments. Along with that, imagine writing long texts and actually participating in classes over a phone that might not even be your own! It is very complicated.
Several students are struggling and are finding it impossible to proceed. We are afraid many may drop out and will lose a semester or more. The goal of the FHS is to bring education to as many students as possible and to keep everyone motivated. As a result of this, the FHS came up with a concept. The plan is to bring eight laptops and eight modems to eight areas that have no internet or poor connections. Ideally, they shall be installed in the buildings in which the middle schools are on hold. If that is not possible they will go to a home of a responsible person, monitored either by the rural teachers or a student leader.
Remoting Into Rural Areas
To bring you an example, in one of the eight rural communities, Tortuga, live 16 students that usually take the Free School Bus to campus. (This bus is something your support helped to provide!) Six of the students, now studying in the village, do not even have a phone. Without support, they could not go on with their studies. Imagine how discouraging that must be with having already come so far to your fourth or fifth year in school. Bringing these laptops and modems to more remote areas helps to keep these students studying and progressing.
Through visiting the rural communities several times during my trips with Random Acts to Nicaragua, I know life is so different for those students living in the city versus those in the rural areas. It would be devastating to witness students missing out on bringing the change they are working towards. We want to help them succeed.
Making Concepts Reality
Once the concept was born, the FHS looked for a chance to get it realized. This is where Random Acts Board Member Danneel Ackles, together with her husband Jensen, jumped into action. They donated what is needed to realize the dream of virtual learning accessibility to ALL students. We are excited and thankful for their generous support of the Free High School. Thanks to that support, the Free High School can continue to fulfill their great mission: Bringing education to the under-served. These students continue to prove to be so dedicated and talented when given these opportunities. With this, we can guarantee no student gets left behind!