In Nicaragua, where schools have remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic, Project Concern International (PCI), a Global Communities Partner, has played a critical role in supporting the well-being of students and their families.

With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, PCI continues to reach more than 77,500 children in 1,115 schools with a daily meal and COVID-19 prevention information. The schools are located in some of the most underserved communities in Jinotega and the South Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua.

“For parents and the Ministry of Education (MINED) staff, the support that PCI has been providing is of great importance,” said Margarita López, a MINED delegate in the municipality of La Concordia. “They have had a very good track record in the municipality for many years, strengthening behavior change in the communities and mainly supporting children in schools.”

In March, at the onset of the pandemic, student attendance dropped to approximately 40 percent because of coronavirus fears. To ensure continued access to healthy food for children who were absent, PCI distributed take-home rations to 10,000 students in 60 communities. Staff also leveraged this time to talk to families about COVID-19 prevention measures such as washing their hands with soap and water, wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

“At the beginning, there was a lot of uncertainty among [parents]. Although they understood that there is a pandemic affecting the world right now, all the information that came to them was accompanied by huge myths and misinformation,” said Salvador Vindel, a PCI staff member working in the municipality of Pantasma.

To counter these myths, PCI trained 5,248 parents and teachers from 638 schools on key health and hygiene practices. Participants then circulated COVID-19 prevention messages among their communities and supported the installation of 2,174 low-cost handwashing stations, or “Tippy Taps,” in local homes and schools.

“As PCI staff, we protect ourselves and at the same time promote the adoption of all the measures,” said Vindel, describing how they wear face coverings when visiting schools and reinforce guidelines on social distancing and handwashing.

In addition to providing ongoing technical support to schools on COVID-19, PCI also conducted an online training for 150 teachers on literacy teaching methodologies and how to involve parents in their children’s reading practice at home.

“PCI contributed by reaching communities that the Ministry of Education staff were not able to reach, addressing COVID prevention using our common approaches and purposes,” said Rolando Guevara, Pedagogical Advisor of the Ministry of Education.

According to Maryuri Rodríguez, a school parent who participated in one of PCI’s workshops in El Dorado, Jinotega, families are feeling more confident about keeping their children safe where they live, learn and play: “Previously, we ignored a lot of things about COVID-19. Now we know it’s weaknesses and how to prevent it, so that we can preserve our children’s lives at home, the school and the community.”

01: During the COVID-19 pandemic, PCI Nicaragua has trained 5,248 parents and teachers on key health and hygiene practices and supported the installation of 2,174 low-cost handwashing stations, or “Tippy Taps,” in local homes and schools. Photo by PCI Nicaragua Staff 

02: PCI staff member Salvador Vindel conducts a COVID-19 prevention training with parents in the Plátano community of Pantasma, Jinotega. Photo by Luis Andinoschool teacher 

03: PCI staff member Hammerly Rayo chats with students about COVID-19 prevention practices at a school in Yali, Jinotega. Photo by Marlon Rodriguezschool teacher 

04A PCI staff member meets with Margarita López, a Ministry of Education delegate in the municipality of La ConcordiaPhoto by Xiomara Herrera/PCI Nicaragua 

05With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, PCI Nicaragua continues to reach more than 77,500 children in 1,115 schools with a daily meal and COVID-19 prevention information. Photo by PCI Nicaragua Staff 

06A community health volunteer teaches students and parents about proper handwashing practices at a school in Pantasma, Jinotega. Photo by Fidel Ruiz/PCI Nicaragua 

07In Nicaragua, where schools have remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic, PCI has played a critical role in providing students, teachers and parents with timely and accurate coronavirus prevention information. Photo by PCI Nicaragua Staff 

08PCI facilitator Yader Manzanares verifies receipt of plastic barrels to safely store food for school meals in Nicaragua’s south Caribbean autonomous region. Photo by PCI Nicaragua Staff 

09In Nicaragua, PCI provided all transportation and loading staff responsible for delivering food commodities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Ministry of Education’s school nutrition program with COVID-19 safety training as well as protective gear and handwashing stations. Photo by PCI/Nicaragua Staff 

10With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, PCI Nicaragua continues to reach more than 77,500 children in 1,115 schools with a daily meal and COVID-19 prevention information. Photo by PCI Nicaragua Staff 

11In Nicaragua, where schools have remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic, PCI has played a critical role in providing students, teachers and parents with timely and accurate coronavirus prevention information. Photo by PCI Nicaragua Staff 

12In Nicaragua, PCI provided all transportation and loading staff responsible for delivering food commodities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Ministry of Education’s school nutrition program with COVID-19 safety training as well as protective gear and handwashing stations. Photo by PCI/Nicaragua Staff