Carbonera School Journal • 1994-1995

1994 Feb.: The Costa Rica/Minnesota Foundation visited the school and hosted a fiesta to better know the community. Only 2 of the community came as not many neighbors were in the area due to holiday time. Piquica was very proud to meet Tony Anderson and Karen Johnson and thank them for their role in the gathering of money for building supplies. We heard that very morning that the Harvard World Teach program will be sending a volunteer teacher to our school for one day per week this year. How wonderful. Now we have to get some money to make some furniture for the teacher’s house and the dining hall.

April: In mid-April we had 12 visitorsfrom the North Carolina Outward Bound School who donated theirtime and talent for a “paint-a-thon”. Using paintgiven to the school from the U.S. National Guard the groupwas able to paint the inside of the teacher’s house as wellas the classroom. The children have more light available nowduring the cloudy days and the teacher finds her house muchmore hospitable. The group camped right by the school andcooked their own food. An enlightenment for these young people,ages 20 – 25.

May: Our soccer field has yet to happen.Some of the local men are trying to get the crew who is upgradingthe road to commit to grading the flat area in front of theclassroom. It is flat and ready for grading, but the soccerfield is still a dream as the bulldozers have moved on. Weawait the arrival of 7 seniors and 2 chaperones from the Conventof the Visitation in St. Paul, Minnesota who will be joiningour community for a week the last part of May. The studentswill paint, clear concrete from the soil and get the groundready for planting a grassy area and ornamental plants. Ifthe rains are sufficient we will also plant several fruittrees and some rainforest trees.

June: Our school only needs paint on the teacher’shouse. What a great contribution from the students from Conventof the Visitation. Very dedicated young people not only usedall the remaining white paint to continue the wall sealingbut added a mural to the outside of the education buildingand the lunchroom. The Carbonera School now has a tropicalforest motif – complete with an elephant! – and an underseamural as well. We thank the women also the donation of a taperecorder and one solar battery charger.

July: An important meeting has been called by afew of the families concerned about lack of attendance onthe part of the government appointed teacher. This is thefirst time the community has called for a gathering…trulya monumental occasion to present a united front.

Aug. – Oct.: After several meetings of the schoolfamilies letters have been written to the local supervisorand to San José and the Ministry of Education concerningthe lack commitment on the part of our teacher. During thisrainy season it has been difficult for the children to walkto school and find no teacher. Following a very successfulfirst year where the children and families learned about responsibility- being on time for classes with uniforms, shoes and socks- this year all that has been lost. The July meeting, drawingup a plan for the teacher to report any future scheduled meetingsand absences, created a possibility for the community to understandthe relationship of the community / teacher / director ofschools. With this new guideline the community realizes theyhave a voice in what happens in their school. And with thistool they called for the letters to be written requestinga new teacher next year.

Some marvelous gifts of money were received the end of Octoberfrom guests of Lapa Rios. Now there will be enough money tobuild furniture for the lunchroom and activities building.The teacher’s house will profit from more furniture, also.We also can buy the paint to finish all the buildings. Justin time to give everything a second coat!

Nov.: The first graduate of the Carbonera School!We’re very proud of Margeau who passed the sixth grade exams.She spent a great deal of time studying on her own and withfamily members. Congratulations. It will amaze me if any ofthe children in the lower grades pass due to such irregularclass attendance and continual learning.

Dec.: Our teacher made it clear she was comingback next year and blamed much of the downfall on the schoolthis year to lack of parental support. She had no answer whenchallenged about lack of attendance on her part, no parent/ board meetings, nor reporting her absences to to the board.My observation to her lack of reporting was that no one everasked her for her proof, even back in Aug. and Sept., whenshe continued missing classes. The people knew the systembut didn’t use it!

23 Feb., ’95: A telling day. Our last year’s teacheris returning. It appears, after many meetings within the community,separate conversations with the parents, and at a school meetingtoday which only a few parents attended…”it is betterto keep a teacher who expects nothing of the students andpasses the students to the next grade than to have a responsibleteacher who keeps regular hours, has community meetings anddoes not pass the children unless their exams reflect thenational standard.” Only a few of the parents would signa petition requesting a different teacher…the board willhave to act upon this as the responsible members who wereelected to serve in the best interest of the children, theschool and the community.

6 March: The president of the board,the Weavers and daughters, John and I have been told by thecommunity we no longer can participate in the school. Thecommunity has been convinced by the teacher and the supervisorthat it is against the law for non-nationals to be membersof the school board. Since most of the families feel thatthe present teacher is doing a good job they would like theAsociación to turn over all the money that has beendonated to the school to the families and they will use itas they see fit.

9 March: Fortunately for the Carbonera children thelaws of Costa Rica do not say people without children in aschool and non-nationals are denied access to helping schools.John has apologized to our neighbors about our position inthe school board – non-nationals cannot hold a position! Wewere asked by the community to serve, none of us knowing itwas against the law. By good design the Asociaciónde Educación has been organized correctly and the anyfunds collected may only be used for the ongoing buildingof the school….time will tell how this problem sorts itself.Sadly, this posture reflects the area’s lack of education…

Late April: Personnel from the Education Officefor the Southern Zone came to the school to hold an informationalmeeting with our community. Their purpose in coming was forthem to better understand what direction the school was heading.The Carbonera community watched the faces of these administratorswhen told about the Asociaci—n and the gifting that hadtaken place. We want to think the local people finally “heard”,it appeared most of them understand, that having an “angel”helping a school is the model for all rural schools. Maybesome progress can be made…patience. One of the administratorstold the community that if they didn’t want a guardian angelhelping them he would gladly welcome the help for his localschool. Time will sort this out…

2 May: Seven community people (includingJohn and me) were elected to the Asociación de Educaciónde Carbonera, a foundation which will continue fund raisingand dispersal of the money given to the school. All membersof the group have had some education and recognize the needfor continued building – both in regard to construction andin ongoing learning. This group sees the need to solve breakdownsand move forward.

Upon leaving for the US for our son’s college graduation,I was given 19 little construction paper books handcraftedby our students to send to a class of first and second gradersat a California school. In March this La Jolla school hadsent books and supplies. With little effort the Carbonerachildren were able to reciprocate – their art supplies pluscreativity produced a wonderful effort of “exchange”.Some of the children are already pen pals with former guestsof Lapa Rios; the Lapa Rios architect’s daughter, a schoolin Oklahoma. What world outreach for a tiny school in thejungle!

29 May: The new well is giving good water(thanks to funds from the Asociación ) and the neighborshave learned how to hand pump water into the 500 gallon tank.(Most of us have gravity water systems.) This new well shouldwork for years to come. Oftentimes the mentality is to buildsomething for the moment; a reflection of funds available.The first water system came by “gravity” and driedup when rains caused a change in the river bed; the locallydug well had poor water; this new well was fraught with buildingproblems – for starters the workers could not build unlessthe teacher was on the site! And often times the materialswere locked and the teacher didn’t know where the keys were.Now the junta is not happy because the roof has not been builtnor the surrounding pad. The wood for the roof had been usedfor another project!

15 June: A GREAT DAY! Melanie Temin has arrivedto be the assisting teacher. Melanie will work with the children,supplementing their education with English (a now-requiredsubject but we lack the teacher) plus help with horizontallearning – reading, listening, singing, writing, etc. Sheis a recent graduate of Colorado College, fluent in Spanish,and we are thrilled she was curious to seek out this opportunity.Unfortunately, she is living in the storage room (the secondclassroom) and has cement sacks and tile blocks for roommates.She has had other experiences living in Spanish cultures andher humor and volunteering attitude keep her going ahead.

17 July: After a long, 19 day holiday, the childrenare back in school but without the government teacher. Thecountry is having a strike. How fortunate for us Melanie ishere. The students are continuing with their learning, makingmasks for an art project, reciting poems, taking reading bookshome, writing to their favorite book character (until thisyear we had very few reading books) and simply learning. Melanieneeds a space to live where she can be more comfortable. Don’tknow yet how to resolve this – Lapa Rios keeps coming up asa solution for school problems instead of the community lookinginward for the answers.

10 August: The teacher’s strike is over!! Hopefullyour teacher will return soon. One of our 6th grade girls isnot coming to school because the children call her a “giant”.We do not want her to miss out on achieving her graduation.This diploma is very important, especially here in the Osawhere almost no one passes. We must find funding to build another space for a visiting teacher.

Next year we have an offer from a Peace Corps Volunteer (shefinishes her assignment this September in Northern Costa Rica)to stay and teach at the school all next school year. Paula’sonly requirement is a private place to stay. Since Lapa Riosis committed to land preservation building in the reservedoes not support our posture.

19 Sept.: Melanie disciplined a student who was”bad mouthing” and causing daily class interruptions(a 13 year old boy in grade 3). She sent him from the classroomto stand outside the door. He left school and got “mother”.The tide is turning for a visiting English speaking teacherwho disciplines! The school board requested that Melanie onlyteach English and she was asked to leave the school building”apartment” as it was not appropriate place fora teacher to live. Sadly, no neighbor has offered an ideafor building nor a place for her to live.

An additional problem has arisen in the the replacement governmentteacher (the former teacher’s boyfriend). He does not scheduleEnglish classes! When can Melanie teach? Getting help fromthe district supervisor if difficult at best because he isnot in the area and senses once again there is a rift in thiscommunity and doesn’t want to get involved in solving problems.

On the good side: the Carbonera School qualified for a pilotEnglish education program complete with personal workbooksfor each student because there is an English teacher on staff.Some of the neighboring adults are coming to evening Englishclasses and appreciate the opportunity.

01 Oct.: After a bitter community meetingthe Asociación de Educación has decided to takethe remaining balance of funds in the account and invest ina CD. At this point in time the association and the neighborscan’t seem to come to an agreement on how to work together.It is better to let time do some healing to the separationthat has occurred. Because of the discord in the communityand seeming resentment of the local teacher to Melanie’s presence,she chose to leave the school. A very sad closing on whatwas such a successful experience on her part and that of thechildren. To have her say goodbye to the children (who areobviously bewildered and sad) was less difficult than havingto withstand the lack of support and understanding for thisunique educational opportunity. Melanie has learned a greatdeal about building a school in an area that has never hadeducation; so has the association. Sometimes some of the communitydoesn’t want what other community members want. The more vocalmembers will have their way, not the wishes of the majority.This is real life, not necessarily a democracy.

12 Oct.: Lacking a qualified teacherthe English as a Second Language Program has removedtheir teaching materials. Lacking pressure from Melanie ourclassroom teacher again only holds classes on Tuesday throughThursday. The roof for the well has never been finished.

We remember in 1992 when so many of the community doubteda school could happen and kept wanting to quit. Educationis for the future. We are building the future, with patience.We’ll wait and see what comes from stepping back.