Community Building Projects

La Pitilla School Construction, Tipitapa, Nicaragua

PROJECT SUMMARY:
La Pitilla is a remote rural community of Tipitapa, Nicaragua, with very difficult access, located 19 miles north-east of the municipal capital. It is a small village made by around 18 houses scattered along a creek that provides water to the bigger community of Mesas de Acicaya. The community has a functioning school with a teacher and 28 children operating in a tiny 2×4 meters shaky building made of zinc and rustic wood. The dirt floor becomes muddy when it rains, making the school environment messy during the rainy season. This project will construct a 10×8 meter building made of a concrete floor; metal structure covered with cement dry wall, and a roof made of zinc supported by steel purlins. The windows will be open and just protected by square metal pipe pieces. The doors will also be made of the same materials. A latrine will also be constructed as the school doesn’t have one, and children need to go to neighboring homes for toilet use.

PROJECT PARTNERS:
SOL will partner with One Dollar for Life (ODFL) and La Pitilla School Construction Committee.

One Dollar For Life (ODFL) helps American students and individuals build classrooms and other infrastructure projects in the developing world from donations as small as one dollar (hence its name). ODFL is an IRS registered 501(c)3 non-profit.

A LITTLE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE AREA
As the government of Nicaragua operates with very limited resources, the community members have set themselves the goal to build their own school by themselves. The land has already been donated to the community by one of its inhabitants. So, in this moment the land is owned by the community and has not been legally given to the Ministry of Education. The community plans to transfer the school to this government institution once it is finished.

PROJECT DATES:
March – September, 2020

ABOUT THE COMMUNITY:
La Pitilla is a small rural community made by 18 houses and a similar number of families. It is part of the Tipitapa municipality and is located near the northern border of the municipality, 19 miles to the North-East of the municipal capital. The community is spread in a wide area along a creek, from which drinking water is pumped to the bigger community of Mesas de Acicaya. The inhabitants of the community are small farmers and cattle raisers. Some people work also as laborers in middle size farms located near the community. The population of the community is roughly 100-120 people. There is no electricity and water is sourced from wells and the creek.

This community is also vulnerable to natural disasters, like floods and mudslides because of its location in a valley near a creek and in the middle of hills. Homes are very basic made with rustic materials, which make them also vulnerable. The access to the community is very difficult; it is possible to drive through a rocky and bumpy dirt road from Las Maderas, a town in Km. 50 of the Pan-American Highway, to a site located 1.5 miles away from the school site. Materials for the project would be taken to this spot and then moved on horseback or oxen carts to the project site. The community inhabitants are more than willing to volunteer to transport the materials for the project to be implemented as soon as possible.

SOL got in touch with the community through our projects in the neighboring community of Mesas de Acicaya, where the school principal for seven more schools has his headquarters. The teacher of La Pitilla School, who has been promoting School project for a long time, lives also in Mesas de Acicaya and has approached SOL for support. Students of this school have also participated in activities of the SOL-funded Learning Resource Center of Mesas de Acicaya.

ABOUT THE SCHOOL:
La Pitilla elementary is multi-grade school: a single teacher teaches kids from pre-school through sixth grade. Currently there are 28 students in the following levels:

Preschool: 7
First grade: 5
Second grade: 4
Third grade: 7
Fourth grade: 4
Fifth grade: 1
Sixth grade: 0

As mentioned before, the school infrastructure is very rustic and limited in space, with very poor conditions for learning. It is located in a piece of land donated by one of the community inhabitants. The dirt floor of the school is not protected from external elements, and it is usually flooded or muddy when it rains. The low walls and roof, made of corrugated metal sheets, make the school room very hot during sunny days. The limited space (6.5 x 13 ft.) for 28 kids, who are in seven different grades, is very noisy and chaotic, making difficult teaching and learning. These conditions in general affect the school performance and outcomes. Two students, enrolled at the beginning of the year dropped out from the school; lack of attendance is also frequent, affecting student’s performance and completion. It is clear the poor school conditions is affecting motivation of students.

ABOUT THE PROJECT:
This project consists in the construction of a single 33×20 ft. classroom. The building will be based on a concrete slab reinforced with steel mesh. The pillars and beams will be made of square 4×4” steel pipes. The walls will be made of pre-fabricated cement dry wall sheets. The roof structure will be made with 4×2” steel purlins and will be covered with zinc roofing sheets. We expect this new school space will produce the following outputs:
• A comfortable space where the teacher can organize small groups of students with enough separation to minimize the interference between groups. The space provided is also suitable for dynamic activities to improve the teaching methodologies in favor of a learning-by-doing. A general improvement in students’ performance and educational outputs is expected as a result.
• The new school will also provide a central space for the community to meet with different purposes, like community assemblies to deal with development issues, cultural activities, training workshops, adult literacy classes, and other services provided by the government or other organizations (health care, vaccination, vocational training, etc.)
• A safe temporary shelter for families affected by natural disasters, like floods or mudslides.
After the completion of the construction phase, the project will be managed jointly by the community and the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education, who is already paying the teacher’s salary. The community will eventually transfer the property to the Ministry of Education for the long term management and maintenance.

MONITORING AND EVALUATION:
We rate this a high priority project. That is based on several factors:

• Existing resources are both overstretched and deficient;
• The facilities will be utilized immediately;
• New facilities will be utilized by multiple groups within the community
• SOL has a excellent working relationships with the teachers and community;
• There is already a commitment by the Ministry of Education of Nicaragua to provide the school resources, including the teacher’s wage, in the future.

The project impact indicators to be monitored include:

– An increase of 25% more in school enrollment.
– A 20% improvement in school attendance.
– 35 students and one teacher with decent conditions for teaching and learning.
– A 10% improvement in elementary school completion.
– 120 community inhabitants participate in activities hosted by the new school, including assemblies, cultural events, community service delivery (health and education).
– An average 10% improvement in students’ school performance.

Total project cost: $12,000
Photos of the community can be found here.

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