The Mountain School in the Dominican Republic. A school with a different concept.
Instead of the traditional curriculum that we are used to with Maths and languages as the focus, this school has the mission to teach students through interaction with nature. Not only that, the school is also built completely sustainably. Instead of power lines, there are solar panels and the sanitary facilities are composting toilets.
The joint support of RNT and Acronis allows 150 children in the Dominican Republic now go to school and have a new perspective for their future.
Dottie from RNT finally visited the site after the school construction was delayed for many months due to Corona. She had the chance to see the school with her own eyes, get to know the students, and get first-hand experience of what the school has contributed to the community. Dottie is from the Dominican Republic herself and the interview gave us a great insight on how such a project impacts the lives of not only students and teachers, but also the overall community.
Dottie, you visited the school project in the Dominican Republic. The construction and duration of the project was impacted in different ways by the Covid situation.
How was it to eventually see the open school?
When you are traveling abroad from Europe, you just realize how much the way schools look and are built differs between countries. From our West-European point-of-view, the school at first seemed totally different and kind of unfinished, even though surely about 85% was already readily built. Only some school materials and benches were missing. But I have to say, it’s an absolutely beautiful place. Very idyllic and lively.
Please tell me a little bit more. What caught your eye first? What was most impressive and what do you remember most?
The very first thing I saw, were sinks that were located outside. And I remember thinking to myself and wondering why they sinks were outside. Patricia, the head of our partner organization Mariposa, showed me around and it’s actually a very interesting concept with the recyclable toilets!
Apart from that, the architecture and its connection with the nature is very striking. The students are being taught within the concept of nature. As you can tell, their curriculum is not based on our typical courses such as Maths, German, or Music. Instead, they use a more playful and pragmatic concept. That can also sometimes mean, that students learn how coffee plantations work, or how to grow things.
While having conversations with the locals (students, teachers, community-members, etc.) what was your feeling? How did Los Maranitos feel about receiving a school?
Everyone seemed very nervous, enthusiastic, and joyful. The students at the location are between 4 and 16 years old and enjoy each other’s company. I think their open approach to learning creates a more positive mentality rather than having students think “oh no, I have to go to school”. Instead, everyone is excited to learn new things.
Additionally, I got a very warm welcome. I truly enjoyed my time there. Everyone was super interested to learn more about Germany: where it’s located, and the language. This actually led to all of us counting up to 10 together. That really was one of the highlights.
How did you get to the school? Was it very stranded? What does the daily way to school look like for the local students?
I came by car. Until the last three kilometers, it was pretty okay. Though it was very hilly and winding but I have to say, I was very happy that it was dry and not raining. If it were muddy, being on the road would surely have been fun… well, you would have needed lots of patience. When it’s raining, the kids have a more adventurous way to school. Luckily most of them don’t live too far away.
After everything you saw there at location. All in all, do you think that the lives of the children and of the community in general will change through the school?
Oh, yes for sure. Everyone was truly happy and excited. I think that the school has been a true gift and enrichment for the community. I had a quick talk with the neighbor, and he told me how fascinated he has been from the school and the children. Especially for such a small region, it is a true enrichment and creates chances. When you see that the kids have fun learning, you just know that this project and all its work involved has been worth it. Even my uncle, who lives very far away, said he’d have loved to come and see the project. It really does have a great impact, and everyone knows and values it.
A more general question: animal well-being, sports clubs and association, medical help- there are so many causes to donate to. What led to you choosing education as your priority?
I, myself am from the Dominican Republic and I know the deficits the country faces- especially the school system. It happens so often that there is tension between private schools and governmental schools. That’s why I always told my husband that he has to act when a possibility opens up. There are so many reasons why students quit school or don’t even get the opportunity to receive an education, so much potential is lost through that. Sometimes schools are way too far away, or girls marry and get pregnant at a young age…
I was raised in a family of teachers, and the topic of education is really close to my heart.
That’s the reason why RNT chose the area of education as a great opportunity with the right partners opened up with the Los Maranitos school.
Could you describe the school and the mood at the location with three words?
Humane, amazing, empathetic, welcoming.
Mh, ok, that was one too many.
Overall, it has been amazing getting RNT and Acronis on board to support this very special project. Especially with Dottie visiting the location, it has allowed us to get a more close-up impression of what the project has created for the community. We want to thank her for sharing her experiences with us in this interview and we are looking forward to the school’s opening, which is planned for June of 2022 if the Covid situation allows. (The interview was conducted in German and translated into English by EFK)