SCHOOL - SANTA ROSA

Written by:  Susan Hug 6/2010

One of OCIMA’s projects is the support of CENSE – the Center of Education of Our Lady of Hope in Chapas, Nueva Santa Rosa – a village about one and a half hours southeast of Guatemala City.

In 1996 the Dominican Sisters of the Cenacle, a teaching order from Italy who had been working in Guatemala, established a convent next to a school and community center that was given to them by the local Bishop after mismanagement by the previous directors.  The Sisters asked  Fr. Nick and O.C.I. M. A. for assistance with this project. With 70% funding from O.C.I.M.A.  a dormitory (internado) was built to house 20 girls.  The intent was to bring girls from the surrounding poor villages and house and educate them for three years.  They began teaching 12 girls basic education (reading, writing and arithmetic), hygiene and a variety of skills such as sewing and typing.  The first graduating class of  seven girls either went back to their villages to teach or continued on with their education elsewhere.  Every year the enrollment increased. Another dormitory was added for girls and in 2003 boys were admitted.  Initially the boys lived in a small, primitive rented house across the road from the school.  Eventually a small , temporary dorm was added for the boys. The number of male students is lower than the female enrollment because families tend to take care of the boys at the expense of the girls.  The current  enrollment is 250 in the school complex and about 110 local residents – children and adults.

Over the years the curriculum has expanded to include computer science, hotel management and tourism.  Now the school graduates about 20-30 students a year.  The average student age ranges from 8 – 20 years old.  The grade they start in depends on the education they have had; it is not based on age. Their progress is dependent on their thirst for education.  They can complete more than one grade per year.  Being Catholic is not a requirement to attend.  The school year begins the first week in January and ends the last week in October.  As for tuition one third cannot pay anything; one third pay by offering from their harvest or their trade; one third pay what they would at a government school minus the cost of room and board.

The school is not exempt from the drug culture in Guatemala.  To eliminate groups of students doing drugs the sisters are changing the educational format.  They decided it would be better to discontinue dormitory living arrangements.  Beginning this school year the students will be bussed to and from the school for classes.  The curriculum will be offered in three blocks.  Basic education will be offered all sessions.  From 7am until noon tourism classes will be offered.   From 1-6pm. teaching courses and computer science classes will be held.  Transportation by bus will be offered all day long .  The cost of running the busses will replace the cost of room and board. Most likely the dormitories will be turned into classrooms. Basic education classes will continue to be held on weekends for adults and students who must work during the week to support their families.

OCIMA contributes around $34,000 per year to cover the day to day expenses, uniforms, travel costs and the continuing development and maintenance of the site.