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Virginia Gómez Guillén – an appreciation

Friday, 24 October, 2008

In May 2007, Virginia Gómez Guillén retired from her post as headteacher at the Santa Rosa School in Managua due to ill health – she had had heart problems for some years. Until that time, the Santa Rosa Fund had known no other headteacher at the school since the work of the Fund began in 1988. She was the instigator of everything which the Santa Rosa Fund had managed to do at the Santa Rosa School since 1988.

Martin Mowforth presenting Virginia Gómez Guillén with inscribed commemorative plaque to mark her retirement

Martin Mowforth presenting Virginia Gómez Guillén with inscribed commemorative plaque to mark her retirement

Virginia started her teaching career in 1969 in Las Jahuitas just outside Managua. After four years there she moved into the capital and in 1980 she became headteacher at the Alfonso Cortés School in the Primavera barrio of Managua. Also in 1980, along with Modesto Flores who is still teaching at the Santa Rosa School, she took part in the renowned Literacy Crusade for which the then new Sandinista government gained a UNESCO award. In common with many Nicaraguans, she is immensely proud of her participation in this campaign.

In 1987 she was appointed headteacher of the Santa Rosa School, or as it was called at the time, the Ernesto Ché Guevara School. For the people of the Santa Rosa barrio of Managua and all others who know the school, its success is associated with Virginia’s hard work and dedication, not just to the school but to the whole barrio and all its residents. The hardship fund established by the Santa Rosa Fund, for instance, could not have been administered by anyone other than Virginia who knew the families of the barrio well enough to be aware of those who needed economic assistance in order to be able to send their children to school. This dedication was officially recognised by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education when she was awarded the distinction of the Best Headteacher in Managua for five consecutive years (2002 to 2006).

As if managing the school were not enough for her, Virginia with her husband Rory Hernández have raised six of their own children from whom they now have six grandchildren. Virginia does not receive a pension, and now continues to work (although with marginally less stress than that associated with her post of headteacher) as Academic Director of La Verde Sonrisa, a non-governmental organisation which gives refuge to abandoned children and those who live in extreme poverty. It is of course absolutely typical that Virginia should involve herself in this type of work.

When the Santa Rosa Fund first heard of Virginia’s retirement, it was immediately clear to us that the significance of her work for the school, the barrio and to the Fund could not go unacknowledged. So it was decided that an inscribed commemorative plaque should be made and presented to her in July by the visiting trustees. The plaque is inscribed in both Spanish and English and the photograph shows Martin Mowforth of the Fund presenting it to Virginia in a simple ceremony at the school. The plaque now holds pride of place on Virginia and Rory’s front room wall.

The Santa Rosa Fund is extremely grateful to Virginia for all she has achieved in her career. We wish her a long and happy retirement, although we know that she is not the kind of person who will retire altogether.

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