Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The School Year in Granada Builds Up to Its Peak

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The School Year in Granada Builds Up to Its Peak

Article excerpt

Byline: Avi Richman

As the heavy, unrelenting rains of October fill Granada's skies, life inside the classroom continues at a furious pace toward reaching its annual climax. It is competition season. It is the time to evaluate the year's work and see which student group has the best business idea and most comprehensive business plan.

Since my arrival in Granada, I have been co-teaching a class called (in translation) "The Creative Business," with the objective of teaching fourth-year high school students basic business skills and improving their creativity so they may become successful entrepreneurs.

Throughout the year-long course, the students create their own businesses and compete in local, regional and national competitions against more than 600 other student groups around Nicaragua.

Before telling you about the competitions, I'll share some basic statistics and thoughts about the economic and educational situation in Nicaragua, to demonstrate the importance of entrepreneurship in this country. This information comes from CIA Fact Sheets, the Ministry of Education in Nicaragua and academic studies, among other sources.

In 2007 it was estimated that there were around 800,000 youths between ages 13 and 18 in Nicaragua. Only about 56 percent are enrolled in school, just 272,000 finished high school and around 163,000 went on to higher education. In most of my high schools, there are five or six sections of first-year students, while in fifth year (final year), only one section remains.

The dropout rate is evident. Most of these "dropouts" are busy working in the house (especially girls) or venturing out to the streets and markets trying to make ends meet. Some try to make their way to Costa Rica or the United States in hopes of making more money.

Even with an alarming number of people without a high school education, the unemployment rate hovers around five percent. However, the underemployment rate is incredibly high, meaning that there are many college graduates working as cab drivers or selling food on the streets, as well-paying, white-collar jobs are scarce.

My point in sharing all this is to highlight the fact that there are literally hundreds of thousand of young people working in this country, without high school degrees, trying to make money in an environment where many university-educated people struggle. …

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