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57 public schools at risk of being shutdown by Ministry of Health

June 19th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) Fifty-seven public schools in Costa Rica are on the verge of being shutdown by the Ministry of Health due to their poor condition, according to a recent report.

 

Health officials say the schools have serious problems, such as infestations of termites, mice, bats, and other pests; lack of toilets, electricity and water; in addition to sewage problems.  Officials say the problems have been ongoing since 2011.

 

Other problems include a lack of wheelchair ramps, fire extinguishers, emergency plans, and unsafe gas tanks.

 

Most of the schools are located in rural areas of Limon and Guanacaste, while 13 of the schools are located in the San José metro area.  More than 200 other schools also suffer from mild to moderate health-related offenses, but are not currently at risk of being closed.

 

If the 57 schools identified with serious problems do not resolve the situation in the coming months, they are at risk of being shutdown by health officials.

 

Officials said there is a serious backlog of needed repairs at the Office of Educational Infrastructure and Facilities of the Ministry of Public Education (MEP).

 

Some of the schools identified have yet to receive necessary repairs to damage caused by the 2012 Nicoya earthquake.

 

 

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  • El Torito

    So the teachers were not paid and they struck. People were up in arms to get them back to work. Why are we so silent when the health of children is at risk? Maybe our government should get back to basics. Repair, Renumeration, and Restructure. Obviously the whole system is in need of an overhaul. If nothing is done we could end up with an education system like the Americans and, like them, fall further behind the rest of the world.

    • El Torito

      I usually welcome and agree with your calm voice of reason, Ken, in these discussions. However, I believe you and Frank might be mistaken on a few points concerning this issue.
      Numerous studies have demonstrated time and again that the learning environment very much impacts on the quality of education a student experiences. If your child has homework to do, would you allow the work to be done in a poorly lit, rundown, inadequately furnished area that is rife with distractions? If either you or Frank have ever set foot in a classroom in this country, especially a rural one, you’d be as horrified as I was at the lack of resources teachers and students have at their disposal. People are quick to criticize the quality of education here but, given the meagre facilities in which teachers and students are obligated to work, what they do manage to accomplish is positively amazing.
      As for your solutions for the creation of wheelchair ramps, please understand that Industrial Arts & Family Studies Programmes (Shop & Home Ec. to you Amuricuns) are legitimate subjects with important curricula to address. They are not simply child labour centres tacked onto some schools for their convenience. Instead, parent volunteers and Parent Teacher Groups are excellent sources for labour and fundraising activities.
      Oh, by the way, I do believe that termites can, indeed, nibble their way through concrete. This is especially true if the concrete has been mixed in improper proportions, as is often the case with rural and low budget construction projects here.
      Thank Goodness the Ministry of Health has shone a spotlight on the fact that improving the educational infrastructure in this country requires immediate attention.

  • Ken Morris

    Well, replacing the unsafe gas tanks and buying a few fire extinguishers ought to be prioritized, but how exactly are termites and mice hampering kids’ abilities to learn? And of course wheelchair ramps are nice, especially if anyone in the school actually uses a wheelchair, but if we’re going to start closing buildings for lack of ramps, there will be a lot of buildings besides schools closing.

    People routinely confuse quality buildings with quality educations, when if anything the relationship may be the reverse. Some of the best education happens in the worst buildings, and Socrates taught in the streets. Plus, I seriously doubt that the houses the kids live in are in any better shape than the schools they attend.

    Nothing wrong with trying to have nice school buildings or the health officials doing inspections that identify concerns that need to be corrected, but little of this is a high priority.

    • Frank Castle

      Ken,

      You make some good points. Some other things that can be done:

      Termites can’t eat concreto. If rebuilding or building of a new or replacement school building, use concrete at least for the first 3 or 4 feet of the base of the building then wood if necessary. That should pretty much eliminate the termite problem because the only way they can get to the wood is through tunnels they create which are easily seen and easily destroyed.

      Have the older school children take some kind of shop class and as part of that, make wheel chair ramps. They aren’t that difficult to make.

      Also, tell customs to be nice and allow more charitable contributions from outside the country without being socked for duties.

      Just a thought or two!

      • Ken Morris

        Agreed.

        A small point is that I’m told that a lot of buildings are not only concrete but also use steel beams, thus the termites are only eating wood trim, not load-bearing stuff. Also every time I’ve had mice, I’ve set out some $1 traps and caught them. I’m not following why addressing a lot of these issues requires multiple government agencies with work orders and big budgets, when they seem a matter of routine maintenance.

        On a touchier subject, about which I may feel differently were I in a wheelchair (in which I believe I’d want as much indepedence as possible, and thus favor ramps) it seems to me that asking a couple of the kids to help the wheelchair bound one over obstacles is not such a bad thing. When you install ramps, the message is, “The government will take care of it and you don’t need to help,” but the government can’t install enough ramps to allow wheelchair access everywhere and others do need to help. Yeah, get the kids in shop class to make a ramp, or have the school’s handyman do it, but the sky won’t fall if kids develop the habit of helping their classmates who need it.

        • El Torito

          I usually welcome and agree with your calm voice of reason, Ken, in these discussions. However, I believe you and Frank might be mistaken on a few points concerning this issue.

          Numerous studies have demonstrated time and again that the learning environment very much impacts on the quality of education a student experiences. If your child has homework to do, would you allow the work to be done in a poorly lit, rundown, inadequately furnished area that is rife with distractions? If either you or Frank have ever set foot in a classroom in this country, especially a rural one, you’d be as horrified as I was at the lack of resources teachers and students have at their disposal. People are quick to criticize the quality of education here but, given the meagre facilities in which teachers and students are obligated to work, what they do manage to accomplish is positively amazing.

          As for your solutions for the creation of wheelchair ramps, please understand that Industrial Arts & Family Studies Programmes (Shop & Home Ec. to you Amuricuns) are legitimate subjects with important curricula to address. They are not simply child labour centres tacked onto some schools for their convenience. Instead, parent volunteers and Parent Teacher Groups are excellent sources for labour and fundraising activities.

          Oh, by the way, I do believe that termites can, indeed, nibble their way through concrete. This is especially true if the concrete has been mixed in improper proportions, as is often the case with rural and low budget construction projects here.

          Thank Goodness the Ministry of Health has shone a spotlight on the fact that improving the educational infrastructure in this country requires immediate attention.

          • Ken Morris

            Thanks, El Torito. Believe it or not, this is actually an issue on which I would enjoy an extended back-of-the- bar (or maybe pub to you) conversation.

            On one hand, yes, obviously physical facilities are not unrelated to educational quality, but the questions are which ones and why.

            A quick Google search identified fesh air, lighting (including daylight), temperature, the absence of a noisy external environment, and of course science lab equipment as facility factors that contribute to educational outcomes. There are probably some others. Color e.g. shows up as one.

            However, beyond a very early point, this research smacks of confusing correlation with cause and ignoring intervening variables. Rundown school buildings are associated with poverty, which is independently associated with poor educational outcomes, and a lot of the research identifies staff morale as an intervening variable. Reading between the lines, teachers are aspiring members of the middle class and probably feel better about their jobs (and work harder) when they have nice middle-class and graffiti-free (another variable noted in the research) buildings, but is the solution here to give the teachers the facilities they want or to retrain them or get better teachers?

            Many years ago, in a graduate school course on education cross-nationally, the professor posed various questions, like why principals want the window shades in the classrooms to be drawn at uniform lengths, and why college presidents like to showcase building programs (sometimes with politicians present at ribbon-cutting ceremonies), when those same principals/presidents rarely if ever bother to assess or assist with teacher performance. He also observed that the world’s most prestigious universities have very old buildings, while the second- and third-tier community colleges have the gleaming new campuses. His point was not to deny that the learning environment is a factor in educational success, but that attention to school facilities is often substitute for rather than an enhancement of educational quality.

            Over the ensuing decades (too many of them spent in crummy schools with gleaming new buildings) I have found this professor’s observations to be true. Although I think there is more to it than this, the obvious interpretation is that educational quality is invisible, facilities are visible, so when people want to congratulate themselves for “improving education,” they focus on the facilities. But as the saying goes, it may be a bit like putting lipstick on a pig.

            Thus I remain leery of reports like this one. Even though I don’t doubt that there is something to good facilities as an ingredient of good schools and am sure that there are some wretched facilities in CR that require immediate attention, I fear misplaced priorities and a misallocation of resources.