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Primary education for all in Nicaragua – an unrealized dream

September 15, 2008

The target number 3 of Millennium Development Goals (MDG) laid out in the 2000 UN Millennium Summit is to “ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling”.

How successful has this initiative been?

Get this: 682 million children worldwide are enrolled in primary school but there are still more than 70 million children who are missing out on a primary education.

This means that though the number of children out of school has been reduced, it is still depressingly high. Based on enrollment data, about 72 million children of primary school age were not in school in 2005 according to the MDG report. In fact it is believed that there are many kids who are enrolled but not attending school and if that number is added to the already grim statistic, the number of children not getting educated becomes unsatisfactorily high.

Consider, for instance, the following data according to the MDG Monitor. For Nicaragua, the net enrollment ratio in primary education (% both sexes) was an encouraging 93.7% but the percentage of pupils starting Grade 1 and reaching Grade 5 (% both sexes) was a dismal 50.8%. What this shows is that children do get pushed into enrolling in schools but drop out too early to achieve any lasting benefits.

Nicaragua, which also ranks low in the Human Development Index, has made significant progress in some areas but is still heavily affected by the high level of discrepancies and inequalities. The general population has to face many difficulties in procuring basic services like education and justice and there is a huge chasm in any opportunity between the rich and the poor. There are also many ethnic, gender and geographical biases that need to be dealt with to change the country’s fortunes.

One of the prime issues in monitoring of millennium goals is the lack of correct and up to date data from the countries. Nicaragua suffers from this issue of having a rather untrustworthy system of monitoring indicators. The government itself has requested the support of the United Nations in order to improve the current scenario in the country. In general, there has been a limited participation in the MDG drive by many sectors of the Nicaraguan society and so the poorest and most downtrodden sections still remain vulnerable to hunger, malnutrition and illiteracy. In fact, there are so many issues in the formation and implementation of good policies for sustained development in Nicaragua that many fear that the country may not be able to reach its Millennium goals by the target year of 2015.

As the second poorest country in Latin America, Nicaragua has 46% of its population living on less than $2 per day. According to this report, though the government has made education free for children and teenagers, Nicaragua has failed to make headway in reduction of extreme poverty which continues to plague 14.9% of the population. The unfortunate result of this abysmal poverty is the inability of children to get into schools in spite of free tuitions and fund allocations by the government.

The important thing is, as Kathy Adams, the founder of EI says, “we need to not make light of the process of educating the kids. It is a complex issue that requires funds for sure, but it also requires massive shifts in values”. This is because, often in the poverty stricken areas of Nicaragua, most parents don’t value education since they did not have any themselves. The other issue is that overt poverty prevents the kids from attending school as parents want them to work, babysit, help around the house, house sit, collect wood to cook and wash clothes at the lake when there is no water. The kids, thus, might be enrolled into schools, but get very few chances of actually attending classes. They are burdened by too many responsibilities to shoulder the task of education.

Therefore, pushing the kids to enroll in schools is not enough. It is important to ensure that they complete their primary education at the very least. Empowerment International is making a sincere effort in this direction by not only encouraging children to join school but in also helping them to continue their primary education as well as higher studies.

We all know that the solution to almost all ills in the society is education. It is the foundation for poverty reduction, health improvement and knowledge creation. Thus, we must become partners in this global war against illiteracy. Let us help everyone get equal opportunities, let us stand up for an educated world.

Neha Singh
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In Nicaragua 50% of the kids that start 1st grade never make it to 5th grade. It is our goal to make this percentage drop significantly.

$30/month is what it takes us at Empowerment International to put a child in school. If you would like to help a child stay in school and get better life, please click on the link below or contact us

Donate at

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 27, 2008 7:56 pm

    Hi David,

    It is wonderful to hear you are creating a program where the children near to earn help. I think it is key to not ‘give’ anything away. (There are always exceptions though!). It would be great to get together and collaborate more. Please email me at kathy (at) empowermentintl (dot) org. I will actually be in your area very soon.


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