MANAGUA – The Education Ministry’s plans to involve controversial Sandinista neighborhood groups in the public education system is raising some eyebrows.
“We’re proposing that the Education Ministry, National Police and Councils of Citizen Power (CPCs) organize security in every school,” Education Minister Miguel de Castilla said last week at an event inaugurating the beginning of the school year.
De Castilla, a supporter of the Sandinista government’s CPCs, has been using the support of the citizen councils to construct new schools, and has said he also plans to use CPCs in a nationwide literacy campaign.
Though it’s too early in the school year to tell how important of a role the CPCs will be given in schools, De Castilla’s plans come as part of President Daniel Ortega’s push to involve his CPCs in virtually all areas of government and civil society.
Critics say the groups are a Sandinista tool to consolidate party influence throughout the country.
Gloria Aguirre, gender secretary for the Nicaraguan Teacher’s Union (ANED), said that CPCs could be used to help a teacher in case a kid wants to drop out of school, “To help track the kids so they aren’t lost from the system.”
However, Aguirre added, she remains skeptical about the CPCs’ role in the schools. “If the CPCs come to supervise me in the classroom, or try to change curriculum, I wouldn’t agree with them,” she said.
ANDEN organizational secretary Jorge Díaz said the CPCs may become a hot issue in the classrooms this year.
“It will depend on how CPCs are implemented in each school. There are teachers that are against using the CPCs for propaganda.
It’s possible there will be a reaction against them,” he told The Nica Times.
However, he said, it’s too early to predict how it will play out, since classes just started last week.
In his speech during the first day of school last week, De Castilla said the Education Ministry has signed an historic agreement with the National Police to beef up security around the schools when afternoon classes get out. Heightened security is part of an effort to get students to come to school in hopes of double student enrollment to more than 2 million by 2012.
The biggest challenge, De Castilla has said, are afternoon classes. Parents, particularly in Managua, have expressed reluctance to have their kids leaving school in the evening due to security concerns (NT, Feb. 1).
National Police spokesman Alonso Sevilla said under the agreement, signed last month, police will be on constant patrols within a 400-meter radius of 283 schools around the country.
“We’ll be looking to combat drug and alcohol abuse and other crime,” Sevilla told The Nica Times.
He said the CPCs will be “another organization” that will support increased security at schools by keeping lines of communication open between the community and cops.
The CPCs’ support will add to support cops receive from the private sector, transportation sector and other community organizations.
“It’s nothing special,” he said of the CPCs’ participation.
The Nica Times was unable to reach De Castilla for comment this week.