From Wed Jan 29 11:00:34 2003
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2003 11:54:25 -0600 (CST)
From: Nicaragua Network <>
Subject: Nicaragua Network Hotline
Article: 150730
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Action Alert: IMF Conditions Keep 37% Out of School

Nicaragua Network Hotline, 27 January 2003

Official government figures showed that 823,000 children found themselves unable to attend school in 2002, while roughly 1,550,000 finished the year. The majority of Nicaraguan children complete primary level only. The figure of the absent students represents 37% of all those between the ages of three to eighteen. Eduquemos—Let's Educate, a non-profit group of educational experts and interested individuals, estimated that in reality the number unable to attend school was in excess of 900,000.

Schools throughout Nicaragua recently opened for registration for the new school year, scheduled to begin in February. In accordance with government directives, written signs were on display informing parents and students that education was a guaranteed right and that it was free. Equally prominent, however, were other posters explaining that, while this promise might be guaranteed in theory, most schools depended on parents' voluntary contributions to pay for upkeep, administrative costs, books, and all the other necessary educational adjuncts, without which teaching is virtually impossible. Carlos Emilio Lspez, Advocate for Children and Adolescents, emphasized that those directors of schools who are making financial ‘requests’ of parents are in fact forcing them to pay for their children's education. These other needs must only be made known after the registrations have taken place, and they must indeed be genuinely voluntary.

That is unlikely to happen. The new IMF loan agreement will require the government of Nicaragua to continue to implement the school autonomy program that reduces national government funding for schools. Under the school autonomy system the government pays only teachers' salaries, some special training, and some school repairs.

Parents must come up with the money for additional salary, desks, books and materials, electric bills and cleaning materials. (The children clean the schools.) For many parents, these fees mean that their children cannot go to school. These requirements are in violation of U.S. law.

In November 2000, the U.S. Congress passed legislation requiring the Executive Directors to the World Bank and IMF from the United States to oppose any loans that included user fees for basic health or education services, and to report to Congress within 10 days should any loan or other agreement that includes such user fees be approved. The actual language mandates opposition to any loan of these institutions that would require user fees or service charges on poor people for primary education or primary healthcare, including prevention and treatment efforts for HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and infant, child, and maternal well-being, in connection with the institutions' lending programs. The report language is even more explicit: user fees should not be imposed or required through Bank or Fund sponsored community financing, cost sharing, or cost recovery mechanisms prepared in conjunctions with loans, structural adjustment schemes or debt relief actions. The euphemism for primary school user fees used in the case of Nicaragua is school autonomy, which violates the Congress's prohibition on community financing.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the new House Minority Leader, sponsored this legislation. The last time a loan agreement was approved (for a country in Africa) that included user fees for primary education, Pelosi wrote a letter to the Treasury Department. Ask your Member of Congress to write a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury and to call Rep. Pelosi to ask her to do so as well. Remind your Representative that Pelosi's legislation prohibits the US representative (Executive Director) to the IMF from supporting the school autonomy requirement included in the recently signed Structural Adjustment Agreement between the IMF and Nicaragua. (Your help can be especially influential since the United States, as the largest contributor of funds to the IMF, has a virtual veto over any loan agreement.) The capitol switchboard number is: (202) 224-3121. Or call your representative's local office and save the long distance charges.