12-5-17  |  Success Story

Petrona: A Heroine and Pioneer of Education in her Community

BY: Diana Corrales

 

Hidden on the mountainside of northern Nicaragua, a steep, stony road, takes you to the only preschool in the community of El Espinito. This school is unlike any other – so is its teacher, Petrona, who voluntarily teaches preschool students how to read, write, and count.

 

Built out of adobe, stones, and wood, the community preschool is also the humble home of one of the parents. Like other households in this rural area, access to potable water and electricity is limited. A table with 10 tiny chairs is at the center of the room, where 10 preschoolers sit every day to learn from their exemplary teacher: Petrona.

The 47-year-old is mother to 8 children and has been a teacher in her community for many years. Her vocation has motivated her to teach for 16 years informally, without expecting anything in return. “To talk about my reasons for teaching in this place is to understand my love for the children in my community,” she confesses. Her efforts have been recognized by Fabretto, through teacher training scholarships that encourage her to become the best version of herself. Every day, she implements Fabretto’s educational methodologies with her little students, and she has already seen positive changes.

Petrona still remembers as if it were yesterday when Fabretto arrived at the small schoolhouse to deliver a box full of Legos. The donation went hand-in-hand with play-based educational training. “The children did not know what a toy was.  Now, their favorite activity is building with Legos while learning to recognize the different colors, and even learning early math skills.”

In addition to the training that Fabretto offers Petrona, her students also receive a daily meal, including a serving of cereal, fortified with 21 vitamins and minerals. For many of the students, this is the only full and nutritious meal of their day.  The food is another motivation for the parents to support children’s school attendance. “At home, I cannot offer my child what she needs to grow and stay healthy”, comments one of the mothers. Nicaragua’s highest rates of malnutrition are concentrated in rural communities like El Espinito, which is why the nutritional support that Fabretto provides makes a difference in the development of these children and significantly improves school attendance and overall performance.

Despite having finished high school and later obtaining a technical degree in education, Petrona’s life has not been easy. When she was still in high school, she had to put her education on hold to work at her family farm. Her family’s economic limitations pushed her to get married and have children at an early age. However, Petrona never gave up on her dream of becoming a teacher. During her fifth pregnancy, she decided to resume her studies after so many years. To attend school, she had to get up at 2:00 AM every day and walk uphill for more than three hours. Her pregnancy was never an obstacle, on the contrary, she was motivated by the idea of becoming an example for her children and the entire community. Through love and service, Petrona has surpassed her goal.

It’s been nearly two decades since Petrona began teaching in the isolated community of El Espinito. At Fabretto, we are convinced that education is the gift that keeps on giving. Thanks to the vocation and determination of Petrona – a heroine without a cape – today, children from El Espinito have access to quality education. Thanks to the resilient woman, more than ever, a better future for these children is possible.

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