You are a third grade student at a village primary school near Puriscal, and this is your first day of class. Not only is this a new class, but this is a new school for you. You have come to this village to live with your grandmother because your mother is in prison. You are not sure why. Your grandmother uses a wheelchair, and sometimes she has to go really slow. But that does not stop her from letting you crawl onto her lap so she can give you hugs. It does not stop her from braiding your hair each morning and telling you she loves you. That morning as you leave for your first day of school, she tells you to study hard and make her proud. You promise her that you will.
So you watch as the teacher walks from desk to desk and places four books before each student. New books! She calls them textbooks and says some very nice ladies from the Women’s Club of Costa Rica bought them for all the children. Then she comes to you. She smiles and places those same four books in front of you. You read the subjects: Spanish, social studies, math and science. You had books in your old school, but those books were black and white and they were copied. They even smelled funny. These are real books! They’re pretty and new. You open the pages of the first book. The pictures are all in color. There are stories and things to do, like answering questions with lots of space to write in and places where you can fill in the blanks.
Then the teacher tells you that you can write your name on the inside cover of each of the books! “Why?” you ask. “Because you can write your name in books that belong to you,” she answers. You can’t believe it. They are the first books that you have ever owned in your whole life! You write your name slowly and carefully in each one. You want every letter to be just right. And when you are done, you take these four books and hold them to your chest. At that moment, deep down inside, you realize something. You realize that these books are going to help make you smarter. They will help you to become a good student and to make your grandmother proud. It’s like holding magic in your hands.
This is a story written by Michale Gabriel, based upon her experience visiting a school in a poor community of Costa Rica.
An education is the greatest gift a family or a country can give its children. War and poverty are two conditions that prevent children from getting an education. Costa Rica has wisely chosen to avoid wars, but unfortunately, poverty exists here – especially in the towns and areas far outside the city.
Although tuition is free in Costa Rica, students must buy their own textbooks and uniforms. Many poor families cannot afford to buy textbooks. Not having a textbook for classes puts these children at a great disadvantage because besides not learning as much as they could, they are not getting practice in one of the most vital parts of an education – reading.
To do something about this, the newspaper La Nación has initiated “Libros para Todos,” and is printing textbooks in color for children in rural primary schools. The cost of these books is being underwritten by the Women’s Club of Costa Rica as well as some corporations, foundations and other non-profit organizations. 6,000 colons will buy the four basic textbooks that are also workbooks for a child in primary school. This year the WCCR provided sets of textbooks for 678 children. The members have taken on an ambitious goal for 2014, to double if not triple the number of children they support. And they believe they – and we — working together, can. The next school year begins Feb. 4.
If you would like more information about the program, or would like to contribute, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I cannot completely ignore what has been happening in the world. From the U.S. pundits and politicians I have heard the phrase, “Trust, but verify.” This quote has been attributed to President Ronald Reagan. I would like to add another that applies to the Syrian situation, and to the often claimed loss of stature and effectiveness of President Barack Obama. And it applies as well as to the main subject of my column:
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” — President Harry S. Truman.