Educational challenges in Nicaragua

Written by Agnes Amaral

Nicaragua is a Central American country that the Spanish colonised in the 16th century. Its independence began at the beginning of the 19th century, with a split between groups that defended monarchical ideals and groups that defended independence. For a time, the country became part of the provinces of Central America, and only in 1838 did it become a republic. Understanding this process of late independence is relevant to understanding the country’s politics and how these relations affect education.

There is an intense process of political rivalry between liberal and conservative groups, which has led to civil war and fostered close relations with US politicians. As a result of these close ties, Nicaragua suffered a series of American interventions aimed at protecting its interests in the region. These interventions led to another civil war, starting in 1926. These conflicts occurred between liberals and conservatives, with various political and local consequences for the population.

Another historical event that has led to analysis of the country’s current situation was the Sandinista insurrection of 1972. These revolutions sought to end a period of dictatorship that had been in place since 1936. This movement was one of the first to align two strands: liberation Christianity and Marxism. Christians played an important role as allies of the revolutionaries in this historic moment.

There are undoubtedly many other nuances and other relevant moments in Nicaragua’s history, but these specific moments indicate the attacks on students that have been taking place recently, especially on university students.

Attack on human rights

In 2018, the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH) reported the deaths of more than 280 people and more than 2,000 injured due to President Daniel Ortega’s reaction to protesters. The protests were against a reduction in budget pressure. In addition, several university students took to the streets to demand more assertive government action on other issues, such as forest fires. It can be said that this year was crucial for human rights in Nicaragua, especially in terms of education, since students were responsible for demanding fairer actions for the country’s population.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The reactions of the government and government-backed groups against the protesters shocked the country and the world, even causing threats to the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH), which closed its office in the country due to harassment and death threats over the phone.

Human rights activists become targets of a backlash against protests. Not only students have suffered from this political situation of curtailment of rights, but also doctors and health workers have reported constant attacks and threats.

Since then, it has been possible to observe the role of President Daniel Ortega’s government and how it reacts to social demands. Mainly by attacking students who participated in protests to guarantee human rights.

Attack on universities

In 2022, the struggle of university students continues. Daniel Ortega’s government has instituted reforms to control the country’s education system better. As an example of these oppressive attitudes, the Central American University (UCA) announced that classes and administrative activities had been suspended in August 2022. The UCA’s assets and financial accounts were to be transferred to the government.

Groups from the Jesuit order and students claimed that Daniel Ortega’s government declared the UCA a centre of terrorism against the government. Therefore, it should be held responsible for the university’s accounts. The UN issued a statement reaffirming the impact of this authoritarian change on the right to education. Dictatorial attitudes characterise these actions aimed at the university in an attempt to curtail critical thinking and the right to demand social policies for all.

Photo by Redd F on Unsplash

The question arises regarding the right to education, especially an education that provides free and critical thinking. A variety of theorists and researchers have reinforced the event as dictatorial since not even the university with the highest level of teaching quality in the country was unscathed by government oppression.

The process of revoking these universities, which began with the repressions in 2018, has been accentuated. In 2022, private universities were legally placed as hotbeds of opposition to the government. Several foreign universities with campuses in Nicaragua were closed because they did not follow the authorities of the government in question. The complexity of the issue can be seen in the use of the legal apparatus to silence the voices of students and university professors.


The news from 2023 shows that this event is not over. Daniel Ortega’s government continues to attack university institutions in retaliation for the 2018 protests. Specific attacks on private centres and religious institutions demonstrate a curtailment of the right to education in Nicaragua.

Academics and students are silenced at every turn because there is an attempt to strengthen power and silence political opponents. This is not the first government to try to take away the right to a free and critical education, which shows human rights defenders the need for a continuous struggle to guarantee this right in all spaces. The government’s regulation is mainly aimed at leading institutions in social studies. Researchers are banned from accessing public reports and statistics to carry out their work. It can be said that there has been a definitive attack on education in Nicaragua in recent years.

Many scholars report a totalitarian tendency on the part of the government. The legal apparatus and the force of the state are being used to curtail the right to education, critical thinking, and protests to guarantee quality of life. It is essential to pay attention to this situation since critics and students report disproportionate oppression. The use of militias has been intensive, and the threats to the voices of this oppression have been silenced.

International reactions can be observed, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the perception of the events suffered by Nicaragua students, academics, and human rights defenders. It is necessary to emphasise and discuss what can be done to guarantee human rights, especially critical and quality education, in Nicaragua.

  1. Álvarez, M. (2023, May 9). Transforming rural education in Nicaragua: “Rural and Inclusive Digital Education” project advances towards educational equity. UNESCO.
  1. BBC News. (2018, August 6). Nicaraguan human rights group closes offices after threats. BBC News.
  1. Confidencial, R. (2023, September 17). Nicaragua’s state universities impose the “Ortega truth.” Confidencial.
  1. Jazeera, A. (2018a, July 17). Nicaragua unrest: What you should know. Al Jazeera.
  1. Jazeera, A. (2018b, July 17). Nicaragua unrest: What you should know. Al Jazeera.
  1. Jazeera, A. (2023, August 17). Nicaragua seizes Catholic university accused of being ‘centre of terrorism.’ Al Jazeera.
  1. Selser, G. (2023, September 12). UN says Nicaragua’s human rights violations and persecution of dissidents are on the rise | AP News. AP News.
  2. Seizure of university a blow to science – Researchers. (n.d.). University World News.

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