Nicaragua: La Bastilla Agricultural Technical School Celebrates Its First Graduation

Thursday, 16th December 2010.  The 1st December 2010 will always be remembered as a special day in La Bastilla’s history.  This day marked La Bastilla Agricultural Technical School’s first ever graduation ceremony, with 15 students, including Escarlet who won a scholarship to study in the US starting in September 2010 (refer to 23rd June 2010 blog entry: “Bright Students, Promising Futures”), gaining the Agricultural Technical Certificate with Honours in Agribusiness.                                                                                                  


In fact, three school years graduated on this day.  Pre-school and Sixth Grade from La Bastilla Primary school, which was established in 2005, also shared the special day with the technical school leavers.  It was an absolutely wonderful day with several guests, the local community and representatives of the Ministry of Education all commenting on how proud they were of La Bastilla’s achievements.

The technical school used the event to market produce and services from all of the school businesses, and to launch three new products: dulce de leche as part of the dairy business, jam as part of the fruit and vegetable business, and baked goods as part of the recently launched bakery business.  All of these new products were a huge hit, with the baked goods proving especially popular and selling out within 10 minutes!  Since then, the new business has been on a roll. 

Now that the school year is over, it suddenly seems extremely quiet at the technical school without the students.  However, it’s not completely dead as the students take it in turns, in groups of eight every week (till the end of the holidays at the beginning of February), to spend seven days at the school helping with each of the school businesses. 

With term over the project team will be spending the next two months reflecting on the year that has just ended and planning ahead for the coming academic year and financial year starting in April.  Now is the ideal time to seek Business Angels (experts within one or more of the school businesses) to advise the school, particularly with regards to the beekeeping and pig businesses that have been so problematic. 

On the academic front, on the 9th December fifteen youngsters took the entrance exam in the hopes of joining the technical school next year.  The number of potential students is much lower than we had expected.  However, since its the coffee season most teenagers and adults in the Jinotega department are out picking coffee for long hours to earn a living.  When the harvest period starts to wind down, in time for the start of the academic year, we hope to receive more applicants.  After the entrance exam, the next stage is the trial period in the first week of January, whereby the potential students will spend seven days living in the boarding school and working in the school businesses to give both the applicants and staff the opportunity to assess whether the applicants can adapt to the demands of a self-sufficient school.         

Something that all students, both new and returning, can look forward to is the spanking new school complex which, as the below photo shows, has progressed tremendously since the first bricks were laid in October.  It’s just the plumbing, electricity, interior designing and furnishing left.  Whilst, unfortunately, I won’t be around for the official inauguration of the new school complex in March, who knows, I might still be here when it’s completed.


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