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Teenagers learn to read and write

Speeches of strong support for the Free School by both the government's local head of schools and Río Caribe's new mayor marked the official opening of La Escuela Caribe on November 19th . Lucino, the school's gardener, sang spontaneous verses about the importance of literacy to an audience of more than 90 and the school's first students announced their determination to learn to read and write. Micha, who started learning Spanish just three years ago, delivered a beautiful and moving speech.

It was indeed a great day attended by students, their parents, the staff who run the school, many dignitaries of Río Caribe, government officials and pretty much everyone Micha and I have met since our first visit to the town exactly two years ago.

Two classes of eight teenagers who dropped out of school years earlier are now learning the alphabet and taking their first steps towards learning to read and write. A third class will start in January, making a total of 24 students.

We had the good fortune to find three further literacy teachers, as well as a secretarial assistant for our manager, Florangel, seen here on the left together with other staff and students in front of La Escuela Caribe.

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In addition to numerous organisational tasks, we found time to take the students on their first school outing - to the property 10 kilometres from the school. It has now become a tropical fruit and vegetable garden producing much of what is served daily for breakfast and lunch.

Lucino, left, took us on a tour of the property. Here, Florangel explains the irrigation system we installed on our previous visit in February.

Micha and Avilia, who's 13. Maybe next year they'll be exchanging e-mails.

The Free School project has attracted local media attention. Twice we gave interviews on Radio Paria, Río Caribe's FM station, and once appeared on television as guests for "Tu Opinión" (Your Opinion).

With the school up and running, we launched a fund-raising campaign to ensure that La Escuela Caribe would be teaching young people to read and write for many years to come.


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