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Education and Citizen Security

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Education and Citizen Security

USAID is committed to increasing access to quality education and ensuring that students have a solid educational foundation, a necessary component to pursue higher levels of education or secure employment, and be an active citizen. USAID focuses on three main areas to improve the safety and economic competitiveness of at-risk children and youth in Nicaragua.

1. Improved quality education
2. Increased workforce and technical vocational training opportunities
3. Increased community engagement to create positive environments

USAID’s  education and citizen security program directly support the United States Government’s Strategy for Engagement in Central America, which aims to support an economically integrated Central America that is fully democratic, provides economic opportunities to its people, enjoys more accountable, transparent, and effective public institutions, and ensures a safe environment for its citizens. The education and citizen security program supports economic opportunities and ensures a safe environment for citizens by working with children and youth from the Caribbean Coast and targeted areas to provide educational and employment opportunities.

I. Improved Quality Education

Being able to read is a critical element to a child’s potential academic and economic success, and to shaping other psychological factors and critical thinking essential to building a well-rounded person. Failing to master reading skills has an overall negative impact on the life of a student from early childhood, through adolescence and adulthood. In addition, if children are not able to read fluently by grade three, grade repetition and dropping out from school early is extremely common, increasing their chances for engaging in illicit activities.

USAID focuses on increasing access to reading programs and improving the quality of reading instruction and materials for preschool and primary school students, grades one to four. USAID also works to improve teacher training and enable teachers to monitor student outcomes to better target their teaching activities. USAID also ensures the availability of culturally adequate and gender sensitive learning and teaching materials in appropriate languages.

II. Increased workforce and technical vocational training opportunities

USAID/Nicaragua’s comprehensive education and citizen security activities increase access to integrated, formal and non-formal educational programs for youth, ages 14 through 29 to improve their odds of succeeding in the labor market and of becoming responsible adults through technical vocational education and life-skills training. Poor labor market prospects continue to plague many Nicaraguan youth, and youth unemployment contributes directly to increases in illicit activity and reductions in community safety. This is particularly true for youth living in the Caribbean Coast.

USAID/Nicaragua’s technical vocational education and training (TVET) and workforce development activities work to improve and tailor technical vocational curriculum to meet the needs of Nicaragua’s growing labor demands. In addition to TVET material covered during coursework, life skills training is also provided to youth participating in programs. Life skills training includes subjects such as: civic participation, teamwork, discipline, communication, leadership, pathways to valuing multicultural diversity, self-esteem, gender-based violence, drug abuse and reproductive health, entrepreneurship training, and conflict resolution amongst other topics.

Technical assistance is also provided to technical vocational education centers to improve curriculum, provide teacher training and modernize facilities to respond to Nicaragua’s growing labor market demands. One major component of USAID’s TVET and workforce development projects is scholarships for youth from the Caribbean Coast to attend TVET training and courses. In addition, partnerships with the private sector provide opportunities for youth trained through the programs to secure internships and full-time employment once training is complete. Entrepreneurship training and seed funds are also provided to youth with the desire to start their own businesses.

III. Increased community engagement to create positive environments

The last piece of USAID/Nicaragua’s comprehensive education and citizen security program is community engagement.  In Nicaragua, particularly in the Caribbean Coast, the increasing presence of and rising voluntary or coerced engagement of communities in illicit-drug related activities is taking its toll.  This is demonstrated by increasing school drop-out rates, drug and alcohol abuse, gender-based violence and rates of sexually transmitted infections and adolescent pregnancy.  These same issues are also negatively affecting education. Education and citizen security programs increase community engagement in addressing the local conditions that increase insecurity and put children and youth at risk.  Stakeholders, including teachers, school officials, religious leaders, the private sector, police, local government officials, local non-governmental organizations, parents, youth and other community members, are provided with the skills, tools, and gender sensitization needed to enable them to collaborate in creating a safer environment and increase opportunities for children and youth.

The creation of community action plans is an inclusive and participatory process where stakeholders work together to prioritize community needs, such as small-scale improvements to schools, community parks, and other public spaces to help provide safe spaces for children, parents and communities. Advocacy and civic engagement skills are taught to community members in order for them to understand how to work with municipal governments to request funding for these plans.