Bravo for your editorial (Aug. 15), "Sharing the Blame," regarding the approval by Congress of the $100 million in aid for the contras. It was of immediate interest to me since I have just returned from a two-week visit to Nicaragua, where I collaborated with a group of teachers from San Diego on the renovation and expansion of an elementary school.
I am a bilingual teacher from Salinas, and during my visit to the rural school I observed in classrooms, did some guest teaching, and set up a small library for the school. The second grade teacher, Modesta Ochoa Perez, told me she makes about $22 a month. That's right, $22--for teaching a class of from 40 to 60 students. Her materials consist of two textbooks per child, chalk, a blackboard, and nothing more. All of the teachers I spoke with hold second jobs, as they are unable to survive on their teachers' wages.
Nicaragua must spend so much of its annual budget on defense that it has little money left for social concerns. Despite this, there is free health care for anyone who needs it, and basic food needs are assured for all.
Not only is the contra war destroying the lives of those unfortunate enough to live near the Honduran border, but it is also slowly killing the whole country through the drain of financial resources and energy. Young people who should be studying or working must instead serve in the military to defend the villages in the north. Additionally, Nicaragua, like our own South, suffered a severe drought this summer. Many crops failed, and shortages are more severe than ever.