Teachers, parents, community leaders and friends of La Carpio, an impoverished neighborhood in western San José, have decided enough is enough: their kids deserve a bigger, better school, and if the state can’t provide it, they’ll try to raise the money for it themselves.
They’re not afraid to think big, either. Their blueprints show a four-story school complete with a lobby, administrative offices, plenty of classrooms, a cafeteria and a kitchen – all at a total cost of ¢1 billion (approximately $2 million), according to sociologist Italo Fera, who works at the school. The project has been in the works for two years, he told The Tico Times.
“Dreaming doesn’t cost anything,” principal Miguel Aguilar told a crowd of school supporters at the Finca La Caja Education Forum, an event held at the school June 23 during which participants discussed not only plans for the new building, but also a new curricular model and other projects under way in the community.
“La Carpio is a place belonging to Costa Rica, a worthy place, and there are very valuable people here… it could be the seed of social change we want to give this country,” Aguilar said.
Olga Cañas, president of the nonprofit Helping Hands Foundation (Fundación Manos Solidarias), said the organizations working to garner support for the project have enlisted Cabinet ministers, legislators and private businesses. Like other speakers who addressed the crowd gathered in the school’s small courtyard, she echoed Aguilar’s image of La Carpio as a potential source of hope for the community’s 30,000 residents as well as for the rest of the country.
“If we can build this school, it will be an example for Costa Rica,” she said. “This school project will be the base for improving all of La Carpio.”
La Carpio’s existing school consists of a main building and two smaller annexes to house 2,200 elementary school students; the community does not have a secondary school. The facilities are so overcrowded that students attend classes in three shifts Monday through Saturday, meaning the school does not have time or space to offer subjects such as English, music or art (see separate story), and causing some students to have to walk home through La Carpio’s unsafe neighborhoods after dark.
The new school would solve these problems, said speakers at the event, attending by representatives of the Public Education Ministry, University for Peace and community organizations.
“They’re in the country, they’re ours –they’re our concern,” said Public Education Vice-Minister Alejandrina Mata of the many immigrants, primarily from Nicaragua, who live in La Carpio. To express pride in their communities’ background, traditional dances and the national anthems of both Nicaragua and Costa Rica punctuated speakers’ comments. Mata said the ministry will “do what we have to do” to support the project.
Cañas said cement company Holcim paid for the creation of the building plans, and that she and other project leaders are hard at work soliciting other donations. A board at the school will track progress toward the nearly $2 million goal.
How to Help
For more information or to contribute to the project to build a new school in La Carpio, contact Olga Cañas of the Helping Hands Foundation at 293-8586.