Christine Blower, former General Secretary and now International Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, reports on her visit to Nicaragua in June 2016 to re-establish solidarity relations with ANDEN, the Nicaraguan Teachers Union.
On this, my first visit to Nicaragua, I was accompanied by the NUT’s International Relations Officer, Samidha Garg. The visit was a follow-up to a meeting in London with Jose Antonio Zepeda, General Secretary of ANDEN, an affiliate of Education International.
The purpose of our visit was to re-establish and strengthen relations with ANDEN and to visit both urban and rural schools, with a particular focus on the teaching of English, which was an issue that had been raised during Jose Antonio’s visit to the UK.
In our initial meetings with ANDEN, we learned about the union’s work and education policy in Nicaragua. The Sandinista Government is very serious about poverty reduction, school attendance and improving the quality of education. To this end, it has introduced universal free education from pre-school through to university, a universal free school meals programme, parenting classes in pre-school, and monthly professional development for all teachers.
The union is able to exert considerable influence on Government policy through a system whereby the union negotiates on salaries and working conditions with the Government. A number of prominent union members are also members of the National Assembly and involved in the country’s Education Commission.
We visited schools in Managua and Leon as well as a rural school en route to Leon. All the school buildings were in need of some level of repair/refurbishment and all the schools visited operated double, if not triple, shifts as there are insufficient places for the school-age population. In general, Nicaragua is a country with a young population. The third shift is usually for older adolescents and young adults.
A high priority is placed on teaching values and working on community outreach. The teaching of English concentrates heavily on chalk and talk. There is a problem of class size with many students in classes of 50 to 60.
The Government and the union are enthusiastic about improving the quality of the teaching of English, in particular by developing more modern methodologies. We discussed with ANDEN further opportunities for co-operation, particularly around English-language training, and the NUT is giving this active consideration.
NUT delegation members Christine Blower and Samidha Garg with staff and ANDEN Executive Committee members at the Santa Rosa school in Managua. The banner reads: Every child is born to be happy. Credit: Liz Light. The school is supported by the Tavistock based Santa Rosa Fund www.santarosafund.org
Trade union solidarity news
The NUT has approved further financial support for a joint NUT/NSCAG/Computer Aid International Project. The additional support will provide for the repair and maintenance of PCs already supplied to IHFOCATT, the training arm of the National Workers Front, FNT. The project has seen the establishment of a computer laboratory for FNT affiliated unions to ensure that their members have the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) skills they need to improve their access to employment, increase their income, and enhance their effectiveness as trade unionists.
A UNISON delegation went to Nicaragua for a week from 26 November to visit the projects they support and to have discussions with counterpart unions in health, public services and higher education.
You can read more at: www.nscag.org