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Nicaragua: Newsline

A day in the life of a determined schoolgirl

©UNICEF Nicaragua/2004/Stark-Merklein
Fifteen-year-old Haitza Ortiz lives in a poor suburb of Managua, Nicaragua’s capital.

MANAGUA, Nicaragua, 8 November 2004 - Fifteen-year-old Haitza Ortiz lives with her mother and younger sister in a poor suburb of Managua, Nicaragua’s capital. Haitza’s school starts in the afternoon, so she uses the morning to do chores around the house.

She gets up at 5:30 a.m. every day to prepare breakfast for her sister and mother. Her sister Lupita goes to the same school, but in the morning, and her mother takes the bus to work as a maid at the other end of town.

After Haitza’s sister and mother leave the house, she feeds the animals and brings breakfast to an old man who lives next door. She then washes the dishes and the clothes. Afterwards, she begins to review her homework for school. A friend of Haitza’s always comes by to study with her.

© UNICEF Nicaragua/2004/Stark-Merklein
Haitza Ortiz (left) with her mother and younger sister.

After finishing her homework, Haitza cleans the house, then goes shopping and prepares lunch. The morning goes by fast and Haitza has to rush to take a bath before her friends arrive to accompany her on the 30-minute walk to school.

Haitza studies at the San Luis School. She is in the second year of her secondary school. Haitza studies hard, with dreams of becoming a computer scientist, an ambition supported by her mother. “My mother is always telling me I have to study to have a life better than hers. She had to drop out of school when she was 10 and was sent to work as a maid in the capital,” says Haitza.

At night, when she returns home, Haitza likes to watch TV and relax.

UNICEF's work in Nicaragua

As the largest country in Central America, Nicaragua has a population of 5.1 million people, more than half of whom are under 18 years of age. The country is also the third poorest in the Americas - 46 per cent of the population are poor and 15 per cent are extremely poor.

Although 79 per cent of primary school-age children are enrolled in school, the quality of education and completion rates leave much to be desired. In 2002, only 29 per cent of students completed primary school. Girls often drop out of school to take care of younger siblings or help with household chores.

UNICEF is working with the government of Nicaragua to improve the education system. One example is the Child-Friendly and Healthy Schools Initiative. The initiative builds on strong student, parent, teacher and community involvement. Good teaching, health services, meals, water and sanitation for the students are essential components of the programme. In 2003, the initiative was implemented in 99 schools nationwide and 200 more have been certified as Child-Friendly and Healthy Schools.

Many families in Nicaragua appreciate the importance of education and want to break the cycle of poverty in which they find themselves. The family of Haitza Ortiz is just one of them.


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Multimedia slide show
A day in the life of Haitza Ortiz, a school girl in Nicaragua.

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