Nicaragua: Bright Students, Promising Futures.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2010 - This month I thought I would do a special blog entry writing exclusively about the students of La Batsilla Agricultural School who are, afterall, the protagonists of this educational programme.  The following profiles are of five determined and ambitious students who have stood out for their achievements in the last few months, and are clear about what they would like to accomplish in the future.   


Wilmer is a seventeen-year old First Year Student from Mancotal village in the Jinotega department, where he lives with his parents and his five older siblings.  Back in May two students, including Wilmer, were chosen to represent La Bastilla Agricultural Technical School in the Municipal Mathematics Olympiad.  Wilmer performed outstandingly and finished in Second place!  Other than Maths, Wilmer enjoys learning about the coffee cultivation process at La Bastilla, and would like to pursue further studies in this field, eventually becoming an Agricultural Scientist and running his own coffee estate.  Asked about his opinions about the technical school, Wilmer replied, “The school offers great opportunities, the staff are very capable and we can learn lots from the business areas about how to make the most use of resources in the country [Nicaragua]”.

Yesica , sixteen, is a Second Year student  from Jinotega city where she lives with her parents and her three younger sisters.  Her favourite subjects are English, History and Maths.  In fact she is even studying Accountancy at weekends, simultaneously to pursuing her agricultural technical studies at La Bastilla, and was the other student who did us proud by representing the school in the Municipal Mathematics Olympiad.  Of the school’s seven business areas, Yesica is keen on the dairy business and tourism.  Following graduation in eighteen month’s time, she would like to continue onto university, but being the multi-tasker that she is, Yesica would like to work at the same time to gain experience, and eventually become an Agricultural Scientist.  In Yessica’s opinion the school “provides a good opportunity for us youngsters and for our families by helping them to advance too.  What we can learn here is incredible.  What I’d like to see more of, though, is the students themselves being more proactive and to see us leading the project more”.

Nelson, twenty, is from the village of Pantasma in the Jinotega department, where he lives with parents and two sibblings (he has nine sibblings in total!).  The classes that Nelson enjoys the most are Pest Management, Cattle-rearing and Grain Production.   Nelson is another very mature Second Year student.  After finishing his studies at the school he plans to find a job in the coffee industry.  With his experience it shouldn’t be too difficult for him to find his dream job, as he is currently doing an internship at La Bastilla Coffee Estates’ coffee processing plant.  The position started off as a summer assignment but management were so impressed with Nelson’s performance that he was offered a part-time position during term time too.  Nelson’s key responsibilities at the coffee processing plant include treating the “honey water”(contaminated water) produced in the process, monitoring the bio-digesters, and quality control.   What does Nelson think about the educational programme on offer at La Bastilla?  “It’s given me a good opportunity to study and after studying we’ll have better employment opportunities and be able to better ourselves.”

Darwin, seventeen, is a Final Year or Third Year student from Pantasma where he lives at home with his  parents, two sisters and grandmother.  His favourite subjects are Agro-industry, Dairy Production and Cooperatives - he is actually the President of “Tecnipan” the student run bread-making cooperative.  After graduating at in December, he hopes to work in agronomy or tourism in order to gain experience and raise funds to fund higher education.   At the end of last year Darwin was one of ten students selected by Emprendedores Juveniles (a local organisation that promotes entrepreneurship amongst youngsters) to take part in a national oratory contest.  Each student was given eight days to prepare a speech lasting between five to seven minutes on road safety.   Darwin describes the lead up to the competition as “eight days of sacrifice” as he would often go to sleep at 10 or 11pm and wake up at 2 or 3 am to research the topic and allow sufficient time to study for his classes so that his perfect grades did not slip.  The sacrifice paid off as, whilst Darwin narrowly missed out on First Place in the competition, he was a runner-up, winning a shiny new Compaq Presario laptop, and was also put forward for a two-year scholarship to study Industrial Engineering Quality Control at Georgetown University in the US.  Whilst he was not offered a place in the end Darwin is extremely positive and puts his achievements down to La Bastilla Agricultural Technical School:   “Thanks to this school I have learnt to see life in a different way.  It has also opened doors for me, made me become a young man with a business mentality – an entrepreneur.” 

Finally, but by no means least we come to eighteen-year old Escarleth, also from Pantasma where she lives at home with her parents and three of her five siblings.  Escarleth is in Final Year and her favourite lessons are Cooperatives, Cattle-rearing and Agro-industry.  Last year, Escarleth came a close Second to Darwin at the school level oratory contest run by Emprendedores Juveniles.  Whilst she did not quite make it to the national competition, her excellent grades ensured that she was given a second chance by USAID who visited La Bastilla, amongst other schools, also in search of the best students to put forward for the two-year Industrial Engineering Quality Control scholarship at Georgetown University.  After several months of interviews, tests and assessments centres, Escarleth received the great news a few weeks ago that she was one of ten students from the whole of Nicaragua to be accepted onto the programme, and will be leaving in August to start the course in September.  Whilst the school is obviously sad to see such an intelligent student leave without obtaining the agricultural technical certificate (she would have graduated from the school in only six months time) all the staff and her fellow students are extremely happy for her and proud of her.  Reflecting on her two-and-a-half years of studies at the school Escarleth says “it’s an opportunity that hardly anyone has.  When I started we just had four walls.  Now everything has changed.  This school teaches you the skills to make a future for yourself, as nothing in life comes free.  Since I’ve been at the school I’ve had the opportunity to see so many things, go so many places and to win prizes.  If it hadn’t been for this school I would never have been given the opportunity to go to the US.”  After studying in the US Escarleth plans to return to Nicaragua to work in a field related to her studies and experiences, and more than anything she dreams of opening her own hotel.  I have every faith that she and all the motivated students at La Bastilla Agricultural Technical School will succeed in their future endeavours. 

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