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School census in ES

August 13th, 2007 at 11:15 am

The Ministry of Education of ES conducted a school census to verify the quality of private schools...there are ~1400 private schools.... ~400 are going to be closed down...students can finish the current school year and that's it....
The remaining schools have been divided into categories: A, B, C and D...
A's get 10 year permits with yearly follow-up visits
B's get 5 year permits with yearly follow-up visits
C's get 28 months to improve or else they will be closed down
D's get 16 months to improve or else they will be closed down

the criteria included such things as infrastructure, teacher certification, student-teacher ratios, full-time vs part-time teacher ratio, among others...the list was released yesterday...

Ale's school has been classified as a C school, which wouldn't be too surprising, given that their facilities are two converted houses...but, other schools with similar infrastructure made the B list (some of the other schools I visited but couldn't afford).

Now, I like the school and, I'm hoping that the deficiencies found can be easy to address and that the school will do something about it (I also hope this doesn't include charging more or asking for additional $$, because I REALLY cannot afford that)....Today is the first day and, I expect to have a memo from the school before the end of the week (customary). I hope that the principal will include this important issue in the memo, but, if she doesn't, I think I'll write to her next week to try to find out: 1. what were the areas that received the lowest ranking, 2. what is their action plan and 3. as a parent, what can I do to help?...depending on her answers, I'll have to devise my own action plan (but, just in case, I need to start putting money aside for those pesky one-time enrollemnt fees at other schools, which can be anywhere from $1,500- $10,000 depending on the school!)

Domino effect!

July 10th, 2007 at 02:54 pm

soooo....since the price of corn has almost doubled, prices at the marketplace are already rising:

onions used to be $0.15 each, now= $0.25
lb of beans was $0.56, now= $0.64
platains were 6 X $1.00, now you get 5
tomatos remain at $0.25 by some miracle...

and, potatoes have gone down...they were 5lbs/1$ and this weekend they were 7lb/$1...

It's my turn to do grocery shopping this weekend...we'll see how far I can stretch my $$$

why tortilla prices matter to me

July 6th, 2007 at 01:26 pm

tortillas are the basis of Salvadoran diet, so, if tortillas become more expensive, EVERYTHING will soon be more expensive, too!!...they used to be $0.04 each and now they're $0.05 each!!...we hardly ever eat tortillas at my house (or bread, for that matter...did you know white bread is considered a "luxury item" by some segments of the population here??) but, if corn prices go up, soon everything else follows!...because of the atypical rainy season we're having, corn is scarce....ES is opening it's borders to Honduran and Nicaraguan corn to try to bring down the price a bit...I do hope the Salvadoran corn crops can be saved, though!

We made history!! **looooong entry!!!

April 23rd, 2007 at 05:54 pm

These past two weeks were crazy, but it was worth it!...we had our First Northe rn Zo ne Tour last Wednesday...

To oversee the completion of the compact signed between the Milenium Challenge Corporation and the government of ES, a board of directors, consisting of 4 cabinet members, 2 NGO representatives and 1 private sector representatives was chosen at the beginning of the year...

We helped organize a committee to go to the NZ of the country, where the aid will be concentrated, as this is a "poverty belt"...well,let me tell you, it was EPIC!!!.... we set out at 5:30am, a caravan of 14 vehicles, carrying 60 people....including the ambassador....

So, here I was, little old me, with all these prominent people, whom I see on the news everyday: the minister of education, the minister and viceminister of public works, the minister and vice minister of agriculture, the deputy technical secretary to the presidency, the managing director for our organization, people from the private sector, the ngo representatives, the newly elected executive director and deputy executive director in charge of actually complying with the compact, the coordinator and several members of the National Development Committee...10 drivers,2 translators and some of us "lower level" people from 3 different organizations...no press, so that the attendees could concentrate on actually hearing what the people were saying instead of on what they were going to say to the press!...this was WORK!, not a publicity thing!

It took us 3 hours to get to our first stop, where the group met with mayors on the advisory council, members of a coffee cooperative, cattle farmers and members of a group of municipalities involved in water preservation...

We had a VERY tight schedule, but, the people at the towns we went were VERY organized and managed to stay on track with the time!...

After that first meeting, we left to visit a National Education Institute in a small village 21 kms away...so you have an idea of how bad the roads are there (about $200K for road construction), it took us 45 minutes to get there!!!...We were greeted by the school children, who were waving flags... it was very touching...

Here, the meeting was to hear the expectations and plans of the students, parents and teachers at this little village....the parents said they expected that the educational component of the compact would allow all their children to study and complete their high school education, and, who knows, maybe even go to the university some day...The representative of the private sector asked what they thought were the reasons for the high migration rates this village has and, the parents told her the lack of jobs...being honest, even if you graduate, what then, if there´s really nothing there, no stores, no factories...and, the land is really inhospitable there!...

It was amazing to me to see something so desolate in my country...I would have imagine this was pure forests and, instead, I saw some cows that were kept together only by their hides....trees that twisted in the dry, hot air, like lost souls out of Dante´s inferno...here and there you would see a tiny house made out of tin or cardboard.... and, here and there you would see Mansions (yes, capital M, houses as luxurious as the ones you see in the capital city, only larger!)...these are the homes of the families that receive remittances from the US...I mst say, I understand the lure to migrate...even for those in the mansions....If I had one of those mansions in THAT place, it´d want out....not necessarily to the US, but, at least to the next town!!!! ...but, for those in the tiny shacks....well, just think what they must feel...the difference is really EXTREME!!....

After about an hour and a half of more bad roads, we reached the Lempa river....our ancient Father river...even in dry season, we needed to board the ferry to cross (the compact also includes building a bridge over it)....it was a beautiful spectacle....once all 14 cars were across, we went to yet another town, for yet another meeting, this time with the cattle farmer cooperative, who also explained the opportunities they see with the new road, and with the productive development component of the compact....we had lunch there, organized by the mayors of all these towns we had visited...local river shrimp (they looked more like tiny lobster than shrimp) and hen....quite tasty...

Then back in the cars for the last meeting in a small city, this time on paved roads, but, they were so narrow and full of curves, the cars couldn´t really go much faster than they had on the dirt roads!...

At the last town, the meeting was with the business sector, especifically transport and small commerce representatives...

by this time, it was 4:30pm and, you can imagine how tired everyone was!!!...we left the small city at 6:00pm, back to our capital city....we took a different route this time, and it took only 1 hour and a half to get back home (we COULD have taken this route, but, the whole idea was for this people to actually SEE what the people in the NZ have to live every day and how urgent it is to do something for them and how much of an impact our work will make in their lives)...

Everyone was tired when we left, but, all the people in the caravan where very pleased with the tour and very glad they had joined the tour...could you believe very few of the attendees (me included!) had never visited that part of the country? (where the heaviest fighting was during the war) and, we even had one person who had never actually left the capital city!!!

I don´t have enough time to polish this entry, because Ale wants to play, and it really is a shame, for I know I cannot begin to convey the sense of historic momentum that this trip left in all of us!

I will tell you more about the new job some other time, but, for now, this is the most important thing and, I really wanted to write about it before the feeling goes away!! (and, honestly, I hope it never does, because I feel like I´m really part of something much greater than myself at the moment!)

35 Celsius!

March 12th, 2007 at 07:47 am

We're frying!...it has been so hot this past weekend, that the fans have been on 24/7...and I still got a migraine from the heat!...and yesterday none of us could sleep...except Ale, who totally "disconnects" herself at night...and to think rainy season officially starts in May...and we may not even get scattered showers before mid-April....

changes in ES tax forms!

February 9th, 2007 at 11:54 am

I just read the news this morning, ES tax forms have changed!...rats! ....just when I was starting to understand the old ones!...oh, well, I hope the changes are for the best and will make things easier!... (I already printed the explanation off the local newspaper site!)...in the meantime, I cannot even start thinking about doing my taxes because the company hasn't given us our tax retention letters... Frown

I forwarded the news to our payroll dept!...(it was during our lunch break, so it should be OK!) :P

2 sisters - how can they be so different!

February 8th, 2007 at 07:28 am

yes, I know, we are all individuals and that means we ARE all different...however, the mentalities of nanny's daughters really baffles me!...

Daughter #1 - the eldest who just graduated from high school has gotten a job at a bookstore...it pays minimum wage ($175) + commissions (so, now I will have to switch from buying at the branch in mall X to mall Y, but that's ok, they're both close to my office!)...anyway, she wants the money to pay for her university, as she wants to become an engineer....

Daughter #2 - the one that had a baby at 14...is currently going to night school to get her high school diploma...working as a maid, making $30/week...she wanted my cousin to take a credit line (in cousin's name) so that she (Daughter #2) can get a 25" or 27" TV...never mind that the family already owns a 17" TV, but has no refrigerator...

Now, nanny herself would never even think about asking me to get a credit line in my name to buy something for herself...at most, she asks me for small "loans (rather, advancements on her payment, which I discount in smaller amounts...she never asks for more than $50 and, I discount it by $5/week, for example)...

Now, I know that having gone through High school instead of quitting after 9th grade - the way she originally wanted - changed Daughter #1's outlook on life and of her own potential, but, still...you'd think having a baby would have made Daughter #2 more responsible with money...

I'm really looking forward to seeing how Daughter #3 will turn out! (she's 12!)

$16K for Telethon

February 3rd, 2007 at 08:24 pm

...through numerous initiatives and fierce competition, the company employees were able to raise over $16K for the Telethon...the owner matched our $$$ 2X1...so total from the company will be almost $50K...of course, thanks to the PR fairies, the employees' donation was the first one of the event, so it got a special mention in the press!...

Still, it IS a good cause and, they HAVE built new centers not only in the capital city but also in some of the other major cities....

when fierce competition yields something good!

January 26th, 2007 at 12:49 pm

we are having a Telethon for the construction of new physical therapy centers here in ES...our company typically donates all the artist's flights, but we, as employees, also contribute...since last year the amount we brought was $10K, this year the goal is to reach $12K...so, they have organized a competition among all Vice-Presidencies, to see which one can collect the most...insider knowledge says we are in second place right now (ok, so one of our guys is dating an HR girl!)...we have collected about $800...there's a rally tomorrow and we're all hitting the malls to pester people for money, er, ask people to donate...a group is also going to the airport...what's nice is that, no matter who takes 1st place, we all win! Smile

Blessings!

December 12th, 2006 at 10:59 am

Father Vito once said, if you work to help the (abandoned disabled) children, you will be much blessed....

well, the guy from whom we bought the hot dogs surely was!...as is customary, I deducted 10% for income tax from his pay (actually, what we generally do is "add" the rent, so that these people making marginal profits or less-than-minimum wage can have a break! and then give them their $$ in full and then the next year they get their income tax return as a "bonus")...guess what? the lady at accounting said the receipt was wrong...that even if he had brought people to serve the hot dogs, that actually was a purchase of goods, not services, so I shouldn't have "deducted" the income tax...so, she had me redo the receipt and gave me $17.85 to give "back" to him!....(even with this, and with me having given him $10 "fuel surcharge" -- because the Home IS a far drive from the city), the hot dogs were still about $1.20 each! (we had budgeted $1.25)...so, this nice man gets $17.85 that he wasn't expecting!...he was soo grateful!...evnthough I really had nothing to do with it, it makes me feel good!...times are tough and it is good to see someone getting some unexpected "help"!

"...so, who pays taxes in this country?"

December 8th, 2006 at 08:45 am

The question was asked by one of our PM's upon learning that our maintenance facilities are at a "Free Zone" (meaning tax free) at one meeting and then hearing that taxes are "territorial" in ES during another - related to planes...it's hard for me to explain all that in English (I barely understood it in Spanish!)...

Our answer? ...a handful of raised hands (all the locals, and a few expats - not all of them...depending on their resident status! LOL!)...