Ministry of Education
This was one of our first project locations. Administrators at the Ministry of Education were quick to seize the opportunity to work with TecNica and received a steady flow of volunteers for many years.
Payroll Automation Project at the Ministry of Education, 1985
In the spring of 1985, Nicaraguan teachers had not been paid for several months because the person who ran the payroll software database program to generate paychecks on their in-house computers had unexpectedly left the country.
[Immediately after the Revolution, many Nicaraguans who had technical or professional skills, or who were financially able to leave the country, did so. They left for a variety of reasons, but among them was certainly the fact that they had a productive skill and could actually get work in other countries. As members of the middle class, they also may have felt more connected to the existing order (under the Somoza administration). They may have been supporters the existing regime, with fears about what life would be like under the new Sandinista government, or they were people who had grave concerns about the mounting military actions and sought safe harbor in neighboring countries.]
No other staff people in the Ministry of Education knew how to run the software program that generated the paychecks. At a certain point in its execution, the software barked at them: “Create a New Database” or “Delete a Database.” They didn’t think they should do either one. They had used the Teachers Payroll for years and knew they shouldn’t delete it.
TecNica Volunteer Ken Fishkin, computer scientist and Ph.D. grad student in computer graphics at UC Berkeley, observed the program, checked that files were there, and stepped them through the process of creating a new database (the payroll for this pay period). Ken managed to correctly maneuver through the remainder of the set-up parameters, and ran the payroll program successfully. The teachers’ pay checks were printed that day and 4,000 teachers got paid.
Ken trained other employees of the Ministry of Education to run the payroll program, so thereafter, the teachers were paid on a regular basis.
Advancing Speech and Language Pathology in Nicaragua, 1987
Marsha Silver, a speech and language pathologist, worked at the Ministry of Education, creating a program to train select teachers to become speech and language pathologists (SLPs). At that time, there were only two SLPs in the country to treat all the children with communication disorders. Marsha wrote a curriculum that mapped out a one-year crash course of study in the diagnosis and management of speech and language disorders.
She met with the speech pathologists who were planning to implement the program with the help of visiting SLPs from Cuba who would serve as the teachers. Marsha visited the special education centers and several ear, nose and throat specialists who treated children with physical abnormalities such as cleft palate or voice disorders. She visited children in the schools to better understand how to deliver services to them.
Other Ministry of Education Projects
TecNica embarked on other projects to automate or fix payroll programs or their work flow and provide other services at the Ministry of Education.
If you or another volunteer that you knew worked on a payroll automation program anywhere in Nicaragua, let us know in the blog. We’re looking for people’s experiences to enrich this archive.