Nicaragua: a brief history
Since its independence from Spain in 1821, periods of political unrest, military intervention on behalf of the United States, dictatorship and fiscal crisis— have plagued the largest Central American country of Nicaragua and were the most notable causes that lead to the Nicaraguan Revolution.Prior to the revolution, Nicaragua was one of Central America’s wealthiest and most developed countries. The revolutionary conflicts along with Nicaragua’s 1972 earthquake reversed the country’s prior economic standing.
With the Sandinista’s overthrow of Anastasio Somoza in 1979, ending his family’s 42-year dictatorship, Nicaragua came under the control of a junta. Eight years of civil war between the Sandinista regime and the U.S.-funded rebels (contras) ended in 1988.
The Reality Today
Peace brought democracy to Nicaragua, however poverty and corruption are remain undefeated today. 1/3 of children do not attend school. Only 29% of children complete primary school. 167,000 children perform some kind of job, whether it be legal or illegal, in order to survive. Low attendance in schools and access to education is directly linked to poverty.
Nicaragua has endured its hardships, but the world is beginning to see beyond its weathered surface. The economy In the last 12 years, tourism has grown 394%, the rapid growth has led it to become Nicaragua’s second largest source of foreign capital after agriculture. Ecotourism and surfing are some of the main attractions for tourists in Nicaragua.
Popular attractions include the art and culture of architecturally preserved cities like Granada and Leon. Culture varies throughout the country due to the different influences on regions, making each destination unique and fascinating. Nicaragua is also perfect for those seeking adventure; the Central American Volcanic Arc runs through Nicaragua, making volcano boarding (Nicaragua’s version of snow boarding) a very popular activity for travelers.
Education: A Brief History
Under the Somozas, Nicaraguan education was thrown aside to make way for other political issues. The limited spending on education in Nicaragua resulted in many children and youths being forced into the manual labor market. It also limited educational opportunities for the majority of the population.
The result? Only 65% of primary school children were enrolled in school and of those who made it to first grade, only 22% finished the remaining six years of primary school. The Sandista government managed to generate spending on pre-university education, used to increase numbers of teachers and schools. After the 1980 literacy campaign when secondary school students voluntarily took on the role of teachers, the illiteracy rate dropped from 50% to 23%. The Sandinistas then wanted to reshape the higher education system, however despite many efforts, there was a decline in literacy, mainly because of the rapidly growing population and the lack of enough educational facilities.
Today, many young people in Nicaragua are becoming more interested in continuing their education. 65% of the population is younger than 25 years old, and both elementary and high school education are now mandatory and free (except for uniforms, transportation, etc which many families cannot afford). Although the government is increasing funding to improve education available in the country, many young people still face a difficult choice: continue education or quit to work to help their family survive?