by James Cordonero
Nationwide, a number of English teachers from the countryside in Nicaragua constantly wage an uphill battle to keep abreast of the latest developments in English teaching and to gain access to resources that only a minority of them in some urban centers can lay their hands on.
Tucked away in the heart of northern Nicaragua, Jinotega is among one of the many places in the country where EFL teachers often lack even the bare essentials to deliver their lessons. The author of this article recently partook in a workshop held in the city of Jinotega as a presenter to share with local instructors some of his knowledge on the subject of English teaching. The writer came to realize that most of them have a positive attitude towards enhancing their teaching skills despite the many constraints they face daily and the challenges looming in the horizon.
Among one of the aspects to be highlighted is the enthusiasm most instructors exhibited towards learning relatively new technology-based teaching techniques and eagerly putting them into practice as soon as they could even though tech-teaching tools in their respective schools are non-existent. When asked how they intended to access the websites the presenter recommended, one of the attendees to the workshop replied that she would use her cellphone. Another responded that he would go to a cybercafé and print out some of the online activities since most of the local schools are devoid of computers, not to mention internet connection.
Another positive aspect worth mentioning is the fact that all of the participants in the workshop heartily welcome the chance to receive hands-on training and thus be able to gain ideas to refresh their teaching techniques and develop their own language proficiency. Enthusiastic and determined to learn they were, for many of them came to Jinotega from remote areas in the countryside, and merely attending the event posed an enormous challenge for them. Likewise, some of the hurdles educators in general have to overcome in their own communities involve the long distances their students have to travel. However, what compounds the problem for English instructors is the fact that their learners almost live isolated and with an almost non-existing contact with the target language. The absence of newspapers, magazines or even the required textbooks in English are among some of the factors that prevent them from meeting the minimum standards of English proficiency. This is but a small piece of the mosaic in the intricate scenario of English instructors in rural areas.
By and large, there are myriad of factors that adversely affect the development of education in Nicaragua. Notwithstanding, the unfavorable conditions that permeate English language teaching in rural areas seem to be more neglected than other subjects and remain relegated to a secondary role. Thus, when it comes to raising overall quality standards in English teaching, particularly in the countryside, Nicaragua has still a long way to go, and EFL instructors are likely to continue bearing the brunt of neglect.
Help may be on the way in the form of exchanging teaching experiences, which is what the National Association of English Teachers in Nicaragua (ANPI for its acronym in Spanish) is presently doing by implementing a series of workshops carried out in most of the nation’s major cities. Yet, that is just a trickle coming out of the pipeline of the joint efforts of several language institutes and universities. The Ministry of Education should certainly play a more pivotal role in this issue but the steps it takes, if any, are frustratingly slow.
The work that ANPI has undertaken is nothing but praiseworthy just as the work performed by hundreds of English instructors in hard-to-reach areas of the country, but it won’t be until all the key actors play a more participatory role in this issue that a tangible difference will be made and that a lasting impact will be achieved in students’ life.