La Union Elementary School Children   


Before PAN began working in Loma Alta, the community's three major settlements each had an elementary school staffed by but one government provided teacher who was responsible for all six grades. The teacher assigned to the La Ponga settlement was the lucky one with only 45 students in his classroom.  The teacher of the El Suspiro school had sole responsibility for some 95 kids. And the lone teacher at the main Loma Alta settlement was expected to teach a staggering 160 children.


Moreover, the government did not supply any school materials. Each child was expected to provide his or her own uniform, textbooks, pen and paper.  Since most parents could not afford to purchase these materials, their children simply did without, or did not attend class at all.  


As a result, even those who managed to graduate from primary school, did so with but the most rudimentary of skills. To compound the problem, six years of elementary school was the only education that most of these children received (less than 25% could afford to go on to secondary school).  


The lack of quality education had tragic consequences. Children grew up condemned to a life of continued poverty.  Some fled to live in urban slums, while those who remained to farm the land were destined to marry at an early age, have too many children and be unable to provide their families with adequate nutrition and healthcare. And they would, of course, out of economic necessity, seek to exploit the forest that their parents sought to protect at great sacrifice.