By Wanda Obando / Olga Moraga.- Emérita Mauricia Soza González is 67 years old and has great reserves of energy to keep on working. She is the director of the “Monseñor Schaefler” School in the Pancasán neighbourhood of the city of Bluefields, which has 328 students (157 girls and 171 boys). Born in Caño Negro, a rural community in the municipality of Bluefields in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua, Emérita studied teaching later in life. In 1980 she had the opportunity to study and did not think twice because she had always dreamed about being a teacher.
The “Monseñor Schaefler” School is Emérita’s second home and the educational community her extended family. She has been working there for 24 years, first as a teacher, then as the teacher responsible for the school and for the last 15 years as the school’s director. She knows each of the students, many of whom are the children of former pupils from the same school.
With Emérita at the head, the school council has been implementing certain actions to improve the school for several years now. She proudly tells how a two-classroom building was constructed thanks to a great effort from the educational community. They also identified the problem of the sanitary infrastructure, but did not find a solution because of the lack of space and access to water.
At the national level, 48% of schools have potable water installations and 28% have sanitary services. These national figures do not reflect the situation of rural schools in the Caribbean Coast region, where there are disparities in the access to and quality of basic services. According to the school water and sanitation inventory conducted in 12 of this region’s 20 municipalities, 31% of the schools have functional water systems and 34.6% have functional sanitary infrastructure.
However, through the programme “Restoring the Right to Water and Sanitation with a Climate Change Adaptation Approach”, the facilitating team, the educational community and the Nicaraguan Water and Sewerage Company (ENACAL) have jointly carried out the construction of water flushing toilet facilities, a couple of multiple washbasins and a connection to the city’s water network.
The walls of the sanitary facilities were built using plastic bottles as construction materials, with the bottles collected by the educational community. This implied a significant organizational challenge diligently led by teacher Emérita. Each student had to collect 30 bottles that they filled with sand or trash. The teachers, parents and other family members were also involved in this task.
Now everyone feels satisfied and actively participates in the infrastructure operation and maintenance plan, for which a very particular strategy has been designed. The children are accompanied to the new toilet facilities by the teachers and counsellors. As teacher Emérita explains, “These toilets are something new for many students, so each teacher has to show them how to use them properly to avoid them ending up in a bad state and deteriorating. An investment like this has to be looked after.”
The “Monseñor Schaefler” School in Bluefields is one of the 26 schools covered by the programme for the “Recovery of the Right to Water and Sanitation with a Climate Change Adaptation Approach”, which is part of a global alliance between the Unilever Foundation and UNICEF. The programme’s objective is to improve the quality of live by providing hygiene, sanitation, access to potable water, basic nutrition and improved self-esteem in the municipalities of Mosonte, Puerto Cabezas and Bluefields, which are mainly inhabited by indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples.
The commitment of the educational community is essential in improving the students’ education and respect for the environment. Teacher Emérita has just such a commitment and is happy that her dream has come true despite having started a little late in life.