In My Nicaraguan High School: Giving Excluded Women and Men a Second Chance

Margaret Morganroth Gullette


When I went to Nicaragua for the first time during the Contra war, I had no idea that I would soon wind up helping a Nica friend start two literacy programs and then a Free High School for Adults. It opened in 2002, and now, only 15 years later, we have 1001 graduates, 54% women, 45% rural (mainly from subsistence farm families)--all of them excluded from the regular high schools for one reason or another: being pregnant, being a woman, turning eighteen,  working five days a week, or living too far from town without the ability to pay  bus fare. My real education came with theirs and is still going on, with no end in sight. What I wanted to know was how the teachers--all college graduates who were teaching in the high prestige regular high schools--figured out how to teach these people, many of whom had been out of school for decades and were unused to learning or scholastic discipline; many accustomed to being heads of households; some pregnant or carrying a baby to School for lack of child care or need to nurse; some drunk or exhausted early on Saturday mornings when classes began. The teachers told me their own stories, of overcoming prejudice and learning how to create a welcoming atmosphere. And the graduates told me THEIR stories, of what it took to succeed in those conditions, and how education--especially learning how to speak better-- transformed them, and they, in turn, transformed the entire culture and economy of the region.

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Copyright (c) 2017 Margaret Morganroth Gullette

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ISSN 1941-0832 (online)