Since 2006 the Free High School for Adults has offered the high-school graduates of San Juan del Sur a Technical School. Its demanding career tracks lead to advanced certificates (tecnico medio—something like an associates’ degree) in three specialties: Management of Tourist and Hotel Enterprises (Tourism), Accounting, and Civil Construction. We have graduated 49 students– 23 in Accounting (16 women and 7 men) and 26 in Management of Tourist Enterprises (19 women and 7 men), signed by the Ministry for Technical Education (Inatec). At the end of 2010, sixty-four were in various ongoing programs, of whom 40 are women and 24 men.
The Technical School holds classes on Saturdays for the benefit of those who work all week. This program responds to a need for “education for work” that conceives of it as a way of integrating learning and apprenticeship throughout the life course.
The Technical High’s three tracks respond to the economic realities of the port, which even through the global economic crisis has been a growing resort– some say the principal beach destination for tourists in the country. A survey of students in the Free High School indicated their desire for high-quality programs in these three fields, given by an accessible institution. Few of our graduates can afford to go on to university to get degrees in professional fields like engineering or law or medicine. Many can barely afford the bus fare from their villages to the port. Technical degrees of high quality are usually expensive. This Technical High, like the Free High School for Adults, has to be free for those who cannot pay.
Our goals for the Technical High School are to develop the human resources of the greater San Juan region, improve the lives of the graduates and their family in terms of food security, health, and housing, and produce valuable workers and citizens who have social welfare at heart and may become important social actors who can guide the development of their city and region. We encourage them and give them the skills to start small businesses of their own.
There is high unemployment in San Juan, as in many other areas of Nicaragua. We believe we can help our students confront some of the specific local and regional problems:
There is little qualified manpower locally.
Businesses here (especially the big developers) do not use qualified local workers, but bring them in from other places.
There is no technical academy any closer than Rivas, a city forty minutes away from the center of San Juan del Sur by bus.
What technical learning exists lacks diversification and academic quality. We also want our graduates to have general cultural knowledge and an interest in social action.