January 28, 1998
In This Issue
This is the first issue of URACCAN UPDATE in the New Year. With it comes our best wishes to all our readers for their work in 1998.
If the first weeks of 1998 augur anything, we can already say that it's going to be extraordinarily busy year for URACCAN on all fronts.
Last October URACCAN published its first book of poetry. IMAGENES DEL ALMA (Images of the Soul) is a bilingual collection of poems by Allan Budier Bryan, Costeno writer and URACCAN teacher.
URACCAN's Forward to the collection notes:
"Nothing could be more opportune in the current historical context, as we live through our autonomy process, than
the publication of this bilingual selection of poems, gifted to us by the young Costeno poet Allan Budier. Here is a Costeno Creole citizen who, following in the footsteps of June Beer, David McFields and Carlos Rigby
(and emulating Dario) refuses to remain invisible, launching his poems to the winds. A fresh, vigorous verse that, magnified by the force of two regional languages, fills us with optimism and confidence in the future of the multiethnic men and women of our Caribbean Coast."
Here's one of Budier's shorter, English-language poems from IMAGENES DEL ALMA.
Some hold the rose in their hands,
while others stand before the garden
in solemn expression of envy.
with their eyes fixed upon an invisible sign
How fortunate are those who can touch the rose!
how hard for others who feel only the sting of the thorns.
Yes, it's hard, but just a glimpse of the rose,
one fading glimpse justifies the pain
which the thorns cannot keep from inflicting.
Copywrite (C), H. Allan Budier Bryan,
Nicaragua, October 1997.
By Felipe Stuart
Visiting URACCAN's Bilwi campus is always an uplifting experience. Every time I've found important evidence of growth - from buildings and infrastructure to academic programs and community-focused activities.
On my most recent visit to Bilwi earlier this month I traveled overland with two visitors from the Canadian Trucks for Nicaragua Project. Lori Burnison and Karen Dick had driven a Ford Van down from Toronto, spending much of December on the road through the US, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Their destination was URACCAN-Biwi where they wanted to donate "Granma" (their spacious van) to our campus there. Diego Avellan, a seasoned overlander and URACCAN general services administrator in Bilwi, agreed to do the driving; Charles Welch, a visitor from the Boston-based TecsChange organization also joined us. TecsChange provides computer and other electronic technology and expertise to URACCAN.
The road from Managua to Bilwi (through Mulukuku/Siuna) is in much better shape than my last overland trip in 1992. That year it took about 21-hours. This time it took just over five-hours (and one flat-tire) to make it to Siuna where we overnighted; and then another five hours the next day from Siuna to the Bilwi campus. The dry season assured that rivers could be crossed, bridges or no.
We had only a brief time to drop by URACCAN's Siuna campus and chat with Thelma Sanchez, the vice-rector; and with members of a US Bridges volunteer brigade who are building classrooms on the Siuna campus and doing community health projects in the area. Although students are not in session, the campus seemed buzzing with activity. People were still talking about the recent Pastors for Peace caravan visit and the US student construction brigade had just begun its work. Outdoor lighting is now in place but there are still major difficulties with the diesel-generator that supplies the current. Charlie Welch spent some time looking over computers and concluded that the ragged voltage alterations may be causing damage. Arrangements are being made to repair the generator.
We pulled into Bilwi's Kamla campus at dusk, just in time for a brief campus tour before heading into the town. Striking changes since my last visit! The campus now has electricity delivered from the regional ENEL system. An 80-foot deep artesian well supplies cool, clean water. More classrooms and meeting rooms await next term's students. The staff room seems only to lack a coffee urn and pool table. It opens out at the end of a hallway serving various administration offices, including the Vice-Rectory.
The library is well-organized and provides a pleasant, quiet study atmosphere. The Institute for Traditional Medicine and Community Health is up-and-running in its new, spacious center. Grounds are being tended, including a memorial to the underground-bunker area used by army officials as a command-post during Kamla's days as a war-time army base. Images are modestly assembled, but powerfully delivered. What was once a bunker for military operations and commands is now a classroom. A plaque in Spanish and Miskito highlights the change -- from a military base erected arbitrarily on indigenous lands to a community-based university campus dedicated to autonomy, indigenous rights, and knowledge and skills sharing.
The next day we met with Bilwi Vice Rector Albert St-Clair. Lori and Karen formally presented the keys and registration papers to the vehicle, happy to learn from St-Clair that their donation (which included a lot of spare parts) will be used to enable teachers to move back and forth from Bilwi to the campus at times more convenient to their time-tables and work commitments in other institutions.
Albert took the occasion to describe what's going on with URACCAN during its summer "break". True, students and teachers have a break, but the sounds of an avalanche of activity seemed not too distant.
Preparations were underway to ready the campus to host the forth session of the FORO DEMOCRATICO on January 27, an event that should take on particular importance because regional election campaigning is now underway. The elections themselves are a challenge to URACCAN because the university has undedrtaken civic education work together with NGOs such as ASDI, CEDEHCA, and IPADE to encourage broader participation in the elections and more ethical conduct on the part of parties and politicians. URACCAN's participation in that work is mainly coordinated by the University's Institute for Studies in Autonomy, based in Bilwi. Facilities are now being readied to house the Institute's offices and archives on the campus. It is directed by Cesar Paez, a former National Assembly Deputy for the RAAN.
The Bilwi staff are also knee-deep in preparations to host the next session of the York University (Canada) Masters Inter-Disciplinary Degree Course for URACCAN Teachers. This course will be taught by the distinguished Canadian Latin-Americanist, Dr. Liisa North. North is a professor at York University and a leader of the Canadian Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC). URACCAN teachers from Siuna, Bluefields, and Bilwi will be attending the course. Others from the community will audit the course.
URACCAN's next term begins in March. Five new classrooms are being finished to make a total of 14. More work is being done on the Dining Hall. Labs are being installed for chemistry and biology courses. An office is being built for the student association. More computers will soon arrive on the campus and a special lab is being conditioned to house them.
Last year Bilwi-URACCAN had 32 teachers, including five in extension courses in Waspam. In 1988, 40 teachers will be required to handle increased enrollment. St-Clair expects to have 400 students in total. Courses will be offered in Educational Sciences, Sociology, Agroforestry Engineering, Natural Resource Administration, Nursing (Degree), Community and Social Work, Diploma in Indigenous Rights, and Human Resources Management. The extension program at Waspam (on the Rio Coco) includes First Year and agroforestry courses.
St-Clair sent out such positive vibes about work and progress at the Bilwi campus that I hesitated to ask him about problems. But he was eager to talk about that too.
"Our biggest problem is upgrading the education and skills of our teachers." The Coast region, he explains, lacks actual human resources, but not potential. Most people with professional degrees obtained them on the Pacific Coast. This does not necessarily equip them to be successful educators on the Caribbean Coast. St-Clair stressed as well the need for special courses in race and gender studies, in indigenous history and rights, and in research and pedagogical methodologies honed to meet regional particularities.
Financial difficulties and stresses are obvious. The library is beautifully and professionally managed, but lacks in all categories of reference and research materials. "We need books, Spanish-language books!" Albert exclaimed. Capital funds for everything from classrooms to students sports facilities are minimal. Albert mentioned the need for a basketball court and a Ping-Pong table, while I was thinking of a swimming pool. We both laughed as the word "piscina" formed on my lips.
URACCAN wants to reach out more to young people from the communities and remoter areas. This will happen in the measure that dormitories and scholarships can be provided.
Not all of URACCAN's problems are rooted in lack of funds, St-Clair explains. Many have to do with lack of clarity on pedagogical ight. They work and on top of that, many are parents." More and more, of course, the first-year classes are made up of youth straight out of high-school, or perhaps with only a year or two away from school. However, the special social make-up of the URACCAN student body places added challenges of a pedagogical and social nature to URACCAN teachers and administration.
I came away from this encounter with St-Clair convinced that URACCAN'success in tackling this particular issue will be largely due to its deep roots in the very community it "serves". URACCAN hardly lacks a human face. It's teachers are young and are Costenos. Only just a few years back they faced all the same problems their students now confront. What's changed since then is the framework and the mood.
URACCAN is on the road and knows where it is headed.
[The following report was sent to URACCAN UPDATE by Bluefield's El Tabanito (Little Red-fly). Red-fly makes his identity known only to visitors of the Bluefields campus. Translated and edited by URACCAN UPDATE]
A contract was signed on the afternoon of January 7 for the first stage of constructing the URACCAN-PANCASAN road in Bluefields. The Bluefields' Municipality and the South Atlantic Autonomous Government are the legal tenders of the project.
The construction firm is CONSCA, Inc., a consortia of local groups. URACCAN is a member of the local decision-making committee that will evaluate the work's progress and authorize disbursements of funds in relation work done.
The same project involves construction of San Pedro road to the BICU (Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University) campus, making that university also a beneficiary of the works. Most of the funding comes from bilateral Canadian cooperation (US$225,000). Both URACCAN and BICU, however, will put in US$10,000 each; Municipality will chip in US$20,000 and the Regional Government US$40,000.
Work began on January 12 and is expected to take about six weeks to completion, taking advantage of the summer (dry) season. URACCAN-Bluefields authorities have informed the university community that classes in the New Year will be held on their own campus. This puts an end to the anguishing efforts students and professors have had to make trying to get through to the campus.
The road to URACCAN will benefit more than six thousand residents from the Pancasan and July 19 barrios (neighborhoods). Also benefiting will be students at the Bluefields Normal School (Teacher Training Center), three industrial centers (lumber and fish processing), the naval base, the local slaughter house, the journalists housing project, and the Santa Matilde residential project that involves 200 lots. This is undoubtedly a highly important development project and URACCAN feels ever more committed to monitor and help assure proper execution of the works.
It's the best news for URACCAN-Bluefields to begin the New Year with and we want to share it with our friends.
El Tabanito - Little Red-fly
Multilingual and plurilcultural education -- the right to education in the mother-tongue -- is an international human rights issue. It is also a crucial issue for educators, or rather teachers and professionals genuinely interested in opening doors to clear thinking and knowledge for their students.
We read with dismay an article in the January 26 Time (International Edition) that Santa Barbara's (California) Board of Education has voted (unanimously!) to scrap the city's 25-year-old bilingual (Spanish-English) education program. It is to be replaced by a program of "English immersion for immigrants".
The city's Latino community, the article reports, vigorously protested the move. Mexico-born Rogelio Trujilo told a rally of 800 protesters that education in Spanish is an ancestral right in an area once part of Mexico. "We didn't come from France, England or Russia. We were here already", he said; that is, before Washington invaded Mexico and annexed half its territory in the last century.
Caribbean Coast Nicaraguans know from bitter experience what it means to go without bilingual education. With that in mind, URACCAN UPDATE extends its solidarity to those in Santa Barbara and elsewhere in the US who are struggling to defend this basic right of the Latino minority in that northern country.
As an expression of that solidarity we would like to share with you a poem written by Dr. Ray Hooker, one of URACCAN's founders, in honor of the April 1996 Bluefields International Symposium on Bilingual and Multicultural Education.
LANGUAGE AND THE SPIRIT
Food flows from the soil.
Good Food springs forth from good soil.
The most nourishing and delicious food comes
from the best soil.
Language makes the mind grow.
Oral Language is a loud outpouring
of the mind.
Written language is a photograph of the mind
at a given time.
Language anchors the mind to a given culture.
Language thus becomes the private ocean of a
given culture, in which feelings, emotions,
thoughts and ideas continuously struggle for
Oral Language is a loud outpouring
of the mind.
Oral language is an outpouring of the mind
your ear and my ear to listen to the
silent language of the inner mind.
Oral language sings out loudly the meaning of
the mind at a given time.
Oral language is the instrument which the
uses to lovingly bind herself to her child.
Oral language ties me tightly to my mother.
Harsh oral language makes me carefully
scrutinize the violent creature mother
Lust is more attune to oral language than to
its written sibling.
A mother uses oral language in her dealings
with the child
to slowly build in his mind
a home for the spirit.
It takes time and tender loving care to build
a good home for the spirit.
A homeless spirit is a wandering spirit.
A wandering spirit is a restless spirit.
A restless spirit is an angry spirit.
An angry spirit easily becomes a dangerous
With our oral languages
we must begin to build beautiful homes for
the spirits of our people.
The life span of a man was three scores and
The life span of a language is longer than
the life span of a man.
A language thrives as long as the spirit is
at home in the land of a people.
A language dies when the forest dies.
A language dies when the fish can no longer
A language dies when the birds no longer sing.
A language dies when the bees stop making
A language dies when children starve in the
midst of abundance.
The spirit never dies.
The spirit is neither young or old.
The spirit simply grows cold.
And when it gets too cold for the constant
renewal of life:
The spirit simply withdraws
and begins the search for another place
where tender loving care is never
out of grace.
April 27, 1996
URACCAN's new Managua support center is now almost fully operational. Located in a remodeled house near the Puente del Eden, the center houses both URACCAN and the offices of the NGO Wangki Lupia which focuses on development work in the Rio Coco zone. It is equipped with offices for administrators, accountants, photocopying and publishing, and a document center. Those responsible for academic planning have their own office space and we are not tripping over each other as in days gone by. Work is still in progress and folks are impatiently waiting for a proper ventilation system to relief us from the heat and stale interior air. That problem makes the patio and canteen area very popular. Decked out with tables, chairs, and plants, it a cool relief. We still lack phone lines for our internet communications and for Wangki Lupia. With only one incoming voice line, our callers are often met with a busy signal on first or second try. URACCAN has requested more lines, but it is unclear when that will happen.
The address is:
del Puente del Eden
1 cuadra arriba, 2 cuadras al sur
Voice Phone: 248 4658
Fax: 248 4685