This month, Bridges to Community kicked off construction of a new primary school in our partner community of La Guama, Dominican Republic. La Guama leaders and community members, teachers and students, and Bridges volunteers celebrated breaking ground in a commemorative ceremony on Monday, February 10th.
The current 48 square meter primary school in La Guama lacks sufficient space for the 83 students and 7 teachers who study and work there Monday through Friday. Fourth and fifth-grade classes share one classroom, creating a multi-grade environment that weakens student performance and divides teacher attention. Students in seventh-grade receive classes in the church next to the school. Due to this overcrowding, some students have been forced to attend schools in neighboring communities. Unfortunately, transportation is scarce, and many students are forced to hitchhike or walk the hour to get to and from school.
Not only is the current primary school in La Guama overcrowded, but it is deteriorating from severe soil erosion on the property; the foundation is already fully exposed. The existing property is located at the base of a large hill, and teachers and parents have long worried about students slipping and falling in mud from run-off rain.
The community has been looking for a way to better the school structure for several years now. Community leader Cedano Angomas says, “I am 40 years old and, ever since I can remember, we have been talking about and trying to get a new school built. It is so important because education prepares our young people to be good citizens. These students today are the future teachers, doctors, engineers who will fight for a better life for our community.”
The school has certainly been on the top of La Guama’s list of priorities since Bridges entered the community. Jairo Zelaya, Bridges Site Coordinator, says, “The beginning of construction of the school brings me great satisfaction because I have witnessed how important for the people of La Guama it is to procure a better education for their children.”
Working with the community we have acquired the land necessary to accommodate a new school facility that includes four classrooms, administrative offices, two bathrooms, and a kitchen. This project will create a more conducive learning environment for the existing 83 students and can accommodate up to 120 students. It also moves the school to a much better location that does not experience ongoing erosion and is a more stable site for the school buildings.
As with all of our larger projects, when this building is complete, it will be turned over to the Ministry of Education (MINED) for staffing and maintenance. The Ministry has provided Bridges with approved blueprints so that we can be sure to build according to their standards. We’ve met with representatives from the Ministry of Education at the new site several times and everyone is very enthusiastic about the project.
Altagracia Ramirez, the Director of the primary school, adds, “On behalf of the teachers, I want to say we are so grateful that, after years of need, we will have a good school structure to do good work teaching our students. A community’s development depends upon the education of the youth.”
Volunteer groups will be integrated into the construction of the school throughout the process, projected to take several months. Rick and Sadie Bauman, part of the first volunteer group to work on the school and co-founders of Bridges to Community Canada, say, “Our group is so excited to be working on the school in La Guama. We know it will have a huge impact on the community as these current students come back to their community as young professionals. It has been amazing to see the passion and support that La Guama community members have for this project.”
The commemorative ceremony on Monday ended with a call to the community to continue working together to support the construction project. Community volunteers and leaders will work alongside volunteers and masons to build this school. Cedano Angomas says, “Together, we are going to make this dream of a new school a reality.”