With the emphasis on education during my recent visit to Nicaragua, we had the pleasure of re-visiting the Association of Women Builders of Condega (AMCC). AMCC is a non – profit organization whose main purpose is to promote economic, political and ideological empowerment processes to young and adult women from Northern Nicaragua, to enhance the basic conditions for the exercise of their full citizenship. It’s quite an undertaking when one considers the context of the education, the circumstances of most of the students, the nature of a very patriarchal Nicaraguan society and cryptic attitudes about women, their roles and their capacities.
“Young women are better off staying at home.”
And, oh yes, at the same time the school is providing a very hands-on technical education for their students, teaching practical construction and building skills and demonstrating the latest technologies in use of earth materials. And their results are stunning in both attractiveness and quality. A visit to their site and walk through the grounds where the students work hands-on provides a clear picture of what these very young students can achieve.
“Women don’t do well in trades work like carpentry or electricity.”
In addition to receiving practical vocational training, these students are also immersed in the science of environmentalism. They are taught concepts in the making and use of earth building materials, installation and use of solar energy, efficient land use and building projects that are adapted into the AMCC campus after their completion. My own preconceptions about the use of adobe as a construction material have changed rather dramatically since my visits here!
“Earth materials like adobe aren’t durable enough or attractive enough for serious construction.”
But as is nearly always the case in Nicaragua, the greatest values are to be found in the people engaged in the process. In some cases, it’s the presence of students in a curriculum that they likely never dreamed about for themselves. Sometimes it’s the story of a student who excels in a field of study to the extent that she remains at AMCC as an instructor to other young participants who can identify with her easily, and from whom young women are at ease in following her lead. And there is always the guiding presence of the founding generation, those whose vision and persistence and passion have blended together in a force of determination on behalf of young people’s lives throughout the area of Esteli and city of Condega.
“Young Nicaraguans today have little ambition or drive to succeed.”
AMCC is helping their young students to recognize who they are, what they can become, that they are a part of their environment, and that they are stewards of those surroundings. Regardless of what may be said by “others.”
Working within the education arena of Nicaragua, we find that there is much to worry about with regard to student development in the country. Student access, student retention, availability of materials and adequate teacher training are just some of the challenges facing the country, which has slipped during recent years in comparison with the other Central American nations. But there are also islands of hopefulness in this great sea of needs, and walking the grounds at the AMCC campus offers a rare glimpse of what could be….