Today we traveled to the Mario Ugarte vocational school in Choloma. It is named after Don Rafa’s grandfather who donated the land for the school. We met with the new administrator for the school.
The school is quite a big complex comprised of 6 buildings on a large plot of land. The six buildings house classes for electrician training, welding, auto mechanics, industrial mechanics (mostly training to work in clothing factories), a computer room and several classrooms for academic classes.
The new administrator, pictured above, took over from the previous administrator who had the job for 12 years. Under his leadership the school suffered serious decline. Today, the school has 210 pupils, but it has a capacity to have 600 students. The new administrator is a young man who is very ambitious and has already made noticeable improvements. In the 6 months since his arrival, he has painted the exterior of all the buildings, purchased lawn equipment so that the grounds look beautiful, installed cameras to protect the equipment and monitor all the classrooms, built a stage for events like graduations etc and has plans to do much more. We liked him and believe he is trying to get the school back on track. He wants to make this trade school a model for others in Honduras to emulate. This dovetails with our thinking to make the grammar school a model for others in Honduras to emulate.
We think that this will be a good project for us because again, it fits into our vision for giving Honduran children an education which will allow them to create a sustainable life for themselves in their own country. We learned that when the children graduate, they are all able to find meaningful employment at the foreign factories in Choloma, working for other businesses and even working for themselves. Nevertheless, it will be a big challenge to get this school back on track.
The previous administrator allowed the equipment to deteriorate and age without replacing much of anything. A big problem is that there is a gap between the sidewalls and the roof that allows birds to nest inside the building. The classes and equipment get covered with bird droppings, feathers and other debris and must be cleaned every day. The administrator has started a project to seal this gap with cinder blocks so the cleanliness of the rooms and equipment can be maintained. A local cement company has donated the cement bags for this project and he needs to acquire cinder blocks ( 60 cents each) to keep the project going. No new equipment should be purchased until this project is complete. We have committed to purchase the cinder blocks necessary to get this important project underway.
Once the school classrooms are sealed, we can then start to help the various courses of study by purchasing the equipment they need to get up to date. For example, in the industrial mechanics building there are very old and dirty commercial sewing machines that the students need to learn how to make shirts and other clothing. They need at least four different types of sewing machines to sew on the sleeves, buttonholes, collars etc. They can purchase these used machines from the clothing manufacturers at about $600 each. When kids graduate from this course of study, they are almost guaranteed a job at one of the foreign clothing factories right in Choloma. The other courses of study are also suffering from having old equipment or no equipment at all.
We can only focus on improving one course of study at a time. It will take some time and capital to get this school back to a level that will attract the students to get enrollment up to their capacity of 600. However, once they get there the school will become self-sustaining because the students pay a tuition of about $34 per month and this is mostly provided by the children’s parents.