December 5, 1997
by Ligia Siezar
The much awaited Pastor's for Peace Caravan arrived in Managua November 28, following a trip which took them first to Chiapas. They crossed the Guasable border without a hitch, arriving in Managua on the 29.
The Caravan is made up of ten persons: David Howintt, Kathryn Hunter, Denise Lekowksi, Loreli Moloughney, Laura Pagoada Mellado, Shirley Stanton, Everette Thornton, Wilber Zielke, Corrine Kohut, and David McConnell.
Corrine Kohut is their coordinator.
The Caravan team went to Siuna from Managua, where they were joined by URACCAN Rector Dr. Myrna Cunningham and staff and students of our campus. A special educational program was waiting form them, involved people from the community as well as URACCAN itself. On December 4 they attended a special Graduation Ceremony of the Gender Studies program. They return to Managua December 5 and head back
to the US on the 6th.
Caravan vehicles came loaded with donations for various organizations including URACCAN.
Customs' clearance of donations is now underway and donations will be made once they are released by customs.
Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr. of Pastor's for Peace had been expected to join the Caravan in Managua in order to visit URACCAN campuses. However, with the news of the violent threats and attacks on bishops in Chiapas, Walker though it important to go to Chiapas to express solidarity with the movement there. URACCAN, of course, concurred with that decision. It turned out to have been doubly important
because repression and violence rapidly escalate in the following days. URACCAN sent the following message of solidarity to Rev. Walker:
Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr.
Dear Rev. Walker
Although we are disappointed that you will not be able to visit us as planned, we solidarize totally with your decision to go to Chiapas to express solidarity and support for Samuel Ruiz, Raul Vera and others threatened by repressive acts. We are together in this as in other endeavors. We are sure that your presence there will also be an expression of our solidarity with the brothers and sisters in Chiapas
We are, of course, eager to have a visit from you some time soon. Let's talk about that early in the New Year.
Dra Myrna Cunningham, Rector
Takashi Yogi reports:
A computer engineer from California, Takashi Yogi, recently visited all three campuses of URACCAN to continue support for the use of computers. His two-week trip was sponsored by URACCAN, Earth Links, and the Coalition for Nicaragua (Santa Cruz). The schedule for the trip was arranged by Rector Myrna Cunningham, Ligia Siezar, and Felipe Stuart. Previous collaboration and assistance included shipment of computers and classes in Bluefields covering software and repair. The recent trip focused on intensive training in computer repair, upgrades, and assessment of future needs.
Computers in Nicaragua have problems that are not usually found in the US. Humidity, heat, and salty air cause many problems, especially with electrical connections. Floppy disks will grow mold if left exposed. Electrical power is unreliable, and backup power Supplies are essential. Electrical wiring is often inadequate. Lightning damages computers and modems. Repair service is not available outside of Managua, so maintenance must be provided by each campus.
In Bluefields, five people participated in extensive repair practice on actual computer problems. They spent four days diagnosing problems and changing defective parts. Two old computers were updated to 386 and 486 by replacing motherboards. So now there are seven computers in Bluefields capable of running Windows 3.1 to support classes developed since the initial installation and training in February 1997. Takashi spent two more days fixing computer and electrical wiring problems.
The Bilwi campus has some recent improvements. Electricity is now available from town. Classrooms have been improved and there are many classes at night for students who need to work during the day. Computers are being used by the administration, and a computer room for students is planned. Two trainees spent a day and a half learning repair methods, and they repaired three computers. Takashi delivered a 386 computer and a GPS navigation device provided by Earth Links for use by Bilwi in support of indigenous land rights and resource mapping.
The visit to the remote Siuna campus was an adventure in a single-engine airplane. The flight included delays, heavy rain, and wild rides through turbulent clouds. The Siuna campus depends on a generator for electricity. There are plans for a system of batteries with solar panels to run computers when the generator is not running. Takashi worked with Professor Edgar Lopez to repair seven old computers. Two machines were updated with 386 and 486 motherboards. Earth Links provided a 386 computer and two laptop computers for Siuna. Siuna is looking forward to telephone service in January and expansion of computer facilities for students.
Takashi spent a day in the URACCAN Managua office. He discussed plans for future computer development and classes with Jose Armando Aragon and Felipe Stuart. Jose has written custom software for URACCAN for student records and grading. URACCAN is planning to expand its program of computer classes to include all three campuses.
More computers will be provided by TecsChange in Boston and Earth Links. Takashi reviewed computer books in Spanish for URACCAN and Earth Links provided funds to buy them.
The goal of the computer aid program is to provide the initial training and equipment so that URACCAN eventually will be able to maintain and develop computers independently. The program has used recycled computers to provide computers at very low cost. URACCAN has succeeded in adopting computer technology at a level appropriate for a region with limited resources and a difficult enviro
Many URACCAN supporters know that our Bluefields campus is often inaccessible. The slightest rainfall turns a section of the road into a virtual bog. This creates severe complications not just for URACCAN, but also the Normal School, the army base, other work centers, and the inhabitants of nearby barrios. Finally, after a year of lobbying government and making requests for aid from internation
al agencies, URACCAN has succeeded in getting a road-repair grant from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The delays were caused by difficulties in negotiating this project through the local and national governments, not by CIDA officials. As soon as Canadian Consul Marc Gagnon became aware of the problem he offered to help find funding for repairs.
However delays were encountered in part because the project was expanded in scope to include repairs to the road to BICU (Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University)and agreements had to be obtained from different levels of government. Funding from CIDA is part of a just-signed five-party agreement between URACCAN, BICU, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Foreign Cooperation, the Bluefields Mayoralty offi
ce, and the RAAS Regional Government. CIDA will contribute some US$200,000 to the project. The works have been tendered to a local Bluefields construction consortia (CONSCA). Work is expected to begin in January and last for four months.
The gratitude of people in Bluefields to those who made this project possible -- especially to Canadian cooperation -- goes without doubt. It's a good omen for the coming year.
A three-day workshop took place November 11-13 in Sakalwas [Bonanza/RAAN] on "Participative Planning for Traditional Medicine.
Sponsored by MARENA (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the GTZ (German Cooperation Agency), the workshop was organized by the MARENA-GTZ Bosawas Project. This project works with the Mayangna community in the Waspuk Pispis basin to help strengthen the self organization of curanderos (healers) and midwives through efforts to recover traditonal medicinal practices.
The workshop drew together a wide cross-section of organizations and individuals working in this field.
Uraccan's Bilwi campus will host the fourth regional meeting of the Foro Democratico (Democratic Forum- [FD]) next January 29.
URACCAN will make two thematic presentations to the Foro. One on current socio-economic conditions in the Autonomous Regions and the other on problems and prospects of autonomy.
Peoples from various sectors of civil society have been invited to attend the meeting.
The FD is a forum organized to bring together representatives of a cross section of Nicaraguan society to deal with outstanding social issues. It has met in different regions to take up themes such as "alternatives to poverty", "problems in the Segovias", "derechos democraticos", etc. The last Foro took place December 12 in Ocotal. Another is planned for Managua in March, 1997.
[Editor's Note: Below we publish items written by URACCAN students expressing opinions on issues of concern to URACCAN and Costenos]
Opinions expressed in signed articles are those of the writers and not necessarily of URACCAN UPDATE or the UNIVERSITY. We want to encourage URACCAN students and staff, and our friends here and abroad, to write about their experiences and offer their ideas about issues affecting us. Such items will appear under this column.
THE NEW BLUEFIELDS NORMAL SCHOOL
**YET ANOTHER WRONG INFLICTED ON THE CARIBBEAN COAST
by Salustiano Mcrea Temple
[Editor's Note: this article was recently submitted to URACCAN UPDATE in Spanish by Bluefields URACCAN student Mcrea Temple. The Normal School is a teacher training center. Translation by URACCAN UPDATE]
Yet another in the litany of wrongs committed against the Atlantic Coast by the Nicaraguan government. The [central] government, acting through the Ministry of Education, has imposed its own choice of name on the new building that houses the Normal School. Build at a cost of some US$1 million with help from the Duchy of Luxembourg, the institution now bears the name of the sadly celebrated General Rigoberto Cabezas. In February 1894 General Cabezas, under orders from General Jose Santos Zelaya, took the city of Bluefields by force. Bluefields was the capital of the Miskitu Reserve. He overthrew the Indigenous authorities established by the 1860 Managua Treaty. We Costenos call the period of the Reserve (1860-1894) as the "first Autonomy" of the Atlantic Coast.
Professor Hugo Sujo, Bluefields writer and historian, has pointed out the immediate consequences of the deposing of the Reserve authorities: imposition of the Spanish language in public and private education and abuse against people native to Bluefields by civil and military authorities. This time round, Sujo Wilson has called the Central Government's number, pointing out in a local newspaper that "imposing conquerors as a bastion of regional and national history is no way to establish peaceful and brotherly relations with a conquered people."
The former name of the center was "October 8 Normal School" [Escuela Normal 8 de Octubre], alluding to the date on which regional students acquired a permanent location for teacher training. With pride we note that this date coincides with the day Che Guevara died (1) in Yuro Creek in Bolivia. Maybe this coincidence caused great discomfort to Education Minister Belli. But, curiously, the choice really had nothing to do with Che. May he rest in peace in his Cuban land.
We Costenos are not "autonomistas" for the fun of it. When government institutions and various officials display offensive, arbitrary, and intrusive attitudes our autonomy esprit is all the more reinforced. Was the new name of the Normal School just a provocation? Very likely. But this is not a casual incident. We are witnessing efforts to symbolically reconquer the Atlantic Coast. Somebody already stated that the bust of General Zelaya, which triumphantly overlooks Bluefields Bay and can be seen from Reyes Park, should really be looking out over the Pacific. Now we don't just see this on the Bay, but another smiling face has been riveted to the new Normal School.
This symbolic wound is a distressing, but laughable event in our municipality's history. The Mayor gave the keys of the City to an illustrious passenger, the Duke of Luxembourg. But he didn't even pass through the city, arriving [at the school] by helicopter. It would have been more appropriate to have given a white seagull as a token of the noble price's nimbleness. What the heck - it hardly matters because the keys won't do him much good since he made no decision to continue with other works' projects in our city. The mayor surely raised with him new ideas for development; otherwise it wouldn't have made sense to give him the keys.
Right now the Normal School is inaccessible because of the awful state of the road leading north from Bluefields . That's why the high-level delegation that came to inaugurate the center had to come by helicopter from Managua and land on the grounds of the School. They didn't go through Bluefields. They brought along everything from aides to snacks from the capital city [Managua]. They didn't even invite authorities from the Regional Councils and Government.
A group of Indigenous students playing football the morning after the inauguration at the educational center seemed rather shy when asked if they knew who Roberto Cabezas was. One of them answered in a low voice - "seems to be a hero from the Pacific."
The Autonomous Regional Council of the RAAN (South Atlantic Autonomous Region) made public a resolution passed in September demanding a change in name from that imposed; the Council proposed a more "autonomous" name: Escuela Normal Regional Multietnica [Regional Multiethnic Normal School].
(1) Che was wounded and taken prisoner by the Bolivian Army in the Yuro Ravine on October 8. He was murdered the next day. International commemorations usually take place on October 8 or 9. This year commemorations were high profile events in many countries, including Nicaragua, because it was the 30th anniversary of Che's death .
(2) The URACCAN campus, up the hill from the Normal School, suffers the same problem of inaccessibility. See accompanying article in this issue
(3) The inauguration of the Normal School took place on _____________________.
MEDIOCRITY OR CULTURAL, EDUCATIONAL DIVERSITY IN COSTENA UNIVERSITIES (*)
(*) A number of third-year Sociology students at URACCAN's Bilwi campus sent the following letter to Managua's El Nuevo Diario in response to an article questioning the quality of Caribbean Coast post-secondary education. Translation from Spanish by URACCAN UPDATE
We third-year Sociology students at URACCAN's Bilwi campus wish to express our autonomous feelings in response to an article that recently appeared in El Nuevo Diario. The article in question makes reference to the quality the learning-teaching process and characterizes teachers and students at our universities as "mediocre".
In order to understand why our regional education is different, but not unscientific, it is necessary to underline some historical facts. Following the annexation of the Atlantic Coast in 1894 by national interests we ceased to be thinking beings because we speak, eat dance, feel and share our needs in our own way; because we comport ourselves differently from "national settlers"; and because the
[dominant] conception of being a Nicaraguan citizen is based on being Catholic, speaking Spanish, and a meztizo of Pacific origin.
We don't find it strange that some Costenos have wanted to "belong" to the model imposed by Spanish colonization given that the double standard of democracy affirms that "all Nicaraguans have the right to higher education in all its forms" (Article 125 of the Constitution).
So be it - some young Costenos organized in the AEESCA (organization of Atlantic Coast Students studying in the Pacific) stumbled into playing this game. But the root problem is the lack of real will to provide us with genuine choices about our education. Life's contradictions were expressed in what Costeno students Juan Tellez and Cesar Kelly said. Their outlook is a result of a melting-pot sy
stem; worse, it underestimates the abilities of teachers who have graduated from the same universities that they believe to offer the ideal educational model (UCA, UNAN, UNI, UPOLI [all Pacific Coast universities-Ed]) to educate the women and men who will have to promote the development of the Autonomous Regions.
Because of our educational model we ourselves feel very able to understand the inequality of opportunity that reigns in this country. You are not exempt from this reality. That's why we are inviting you to an open debate to analyze the effects of our identity as a nation and within that, our identity as Costenos.
Followed by various signatures.
END, November 28, 1997.
COSTENOS AND UNIVERSITIES
[The following article, by Costena student Rania Patricia Rossman Hooker, appeared in the Sunday, November 23 edition of END on the "Opinion Dominical" page]
Some years after finishing high school Costenos look for opportunities we have to get ahead.
Upon reaching the capital [Managua] we brush elbows with people with better schooling than us. Some ask us questions about the Atlantic Coast that many of us do not know how to answer. That's how many of us Costenos began to get interested in our history and when we wanted to know what our trajectory has been, what past enshrouds us, what mysteries escape us, and even what will our future be.
The Atlantic Coast has struggled hard to get the universities we now have and to obtain scholarships for teachers. We've managed to implement a health plan that many universities don't yet have. And we've managed to get many foreigners to take an interest in our projects and to send their students to do their theses and pursue their studies with us.
We Costenos are not rich. That's why the Coast universities are an option and yet another opportunity for us, for students from the Pacific, and for others who for various difficulties, above all economic, did not have an opportunity to improve themselves. And I say "did not have" because this is just not a problem of today, but one we have always had.
It's very easy to say that Atlantic Coast universities and their students are mediocre --as did Cesar Kelly -- above all when one knows nothing about them. It's shameful that someone who feels Costeno offends us in this way; who calls himself Costeno but believes that efforts that the Atlantic Coast has made and is making to move ahead only produce mediocre professionals. It's even sadder when he feels ashamed of what his people have managed to do on their own and who carps at the few important and transcendental advances we have achieved in the last few years. I say this especially taking into account that [our universities] are one step more towards bettering our Coastal community.
Hence, I ask myself: Who will take an interest and concern for our progress if we, among ourselves, focus on destroying the little we have achieved? Who will believe that Costenos are capable if we are surrounded by people who underestimate us. Can we Costenos really believe that we will get ahead if our own people publish ideas that offend our abilities. Or, is this in reality nothing more tha
n an identity problem?
The above three articles are quite representative of trends among Costeno youth, especially those drawn towards the autonomy process and the new cultural awakening on the Coast.
Only a small minority of Costeno students who prefer to take post secondary education in the Pacific or abroad can be said to hold derogatory ideas about Coastal Universities and their students. Some do, of course, as the above letters so eloquently protest. However, many prefer to study away from their home regions because they want to pursue disciplines not yet offered there; because they feel
they might have better employment prospects with diplomas from more traditional universities; because they want to have the experience of studying in a large city and can afford to do so; or because they want to study abroad. Some, too, may not feel the same commitment to the Caribbean Coast that URACCAN students have or acquire because of our special mission as promoters of Coastal autonomous d
evelopment and cultural and linguistic pride. URACCAN teachers, students, and administrators are convinced that more such students in the future will choose to study in their regions and, moreover, to seek career employment on the Coast after graduation. People at URACCAN are committed to that. They well understand that it all depends on changing consciousness and on extending the range and qual
gua perceive the Caribbean Coast region and its people. Those goals are being actively and consciously pursued.
In the meantime URACCAN's first commitment is to Costeno students who cannot afford to study in Managua and/or who want to study in the autonomous regions. It is to the future.
As Costeno students argue in their articles, above all serious endeavors begin with small or modest deeds, but with vast vision and genuine commitment. URACCAN is a university of a new type where education takes place through involvement in the community and via community participation in the university.
Some call it a sense of history. Others, a sense of pride in multiethnicity and a unique cosmovision in harmony with nature. Others say it's about having real educational options and the possibility of contributing to the development or the autonomous regions. Most at URACCAN believe it is all that and more.
Editor, URACCAN UPDATE