The “Los Niños del Arco Iris” School operates in Cabrera, Dominican Republic. The aim of the school is to provide education for young children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, from primary school to high school studies, with a view to obtaining an internationally recognized baccalaureate. A European contribution complements the teaching, in French and English, to give the children the possibility of following further graduate studies.

To date, 261 children, divided into 12 classes, are being taught at the School from 1st to 12th grade.

The beneficiaries of the activity carried out by the Foundation are the children and mainly those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. Access to the school and tutoring is entirely free of charge for these children. School supplies, uniforms that are compulsory in this country, snacks and meals as well as the school bus are also free of charge. These conditions are absolutely necessary for the children to follow their education through to their majority.

The educational situation in the Dominican Republic is one of the weakest in Latin America. In 2009, only 75.8% of students finished primary school (1st to 5th year). Despite the strong rate of participation in education (91.3% of children from 6 to 13 are registered), the overall results of the educational system are poor and the dropout and repetition rates are very high, 20.1% for primary school and 38% for secondary school. At 18, students have only validated, on average, level 8.3 of 12. School is only compulsory until the age of 14. Source : Report of the International Commission on the strategic development of the Dominican Republic - 2010

The local schools in the area of Cabrera benefit from rudimentary toilets. A water source is generally present but it is not drinking water. There isn’t a canteen. The schools are deprived of everything. Teachers have to buy their chalks and all sorts of materials themselves. The average number of students per class is very high and can be as high as 45 in the biggest schools. To help as much as possible, the extra school supplies received by the Foundation were given to the school in the El Naranjito community. On that occasion, we noticed that for 18 students, this tiny school had only 3 tables and 6 chairs …

On the north coast of the Dominican Republic.

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The Foundation has a plot of hilly land, measuring 22,015 m2, situated in the « El Naranjito » community, 10 minutes by car from the small town of Cabrera, in the province of Maria Trinidad Sanchez (between the towns of Nagua and Puerto Plata).

Cabrera is situated on the north of the island on the Atlantic coast. This location is protected and doesn’t suffer from the cyclones coming from the Caribbean Sea. The island is separated in two by the « Grande Cordillère » mountain range, the highest point being « le Pico Duarte », which culminates at 3,175m. The cyclones that can befall Santo Domingo, do not reach the north coast.

In the Dominican Republic, the climate is typically tropical. The average annual temperature in the region of Cabrera is 25°C, it stays relatively humid, and a nice constant breeze blows there.

Nature - conservation of the site

The Dominican Republic protects its natural heritage. No tree can be cut down without permission from a government agency, under pain of severe penalties.

All the buildings on the site « El Naranjito » totally respect the natural environment. The school and all the attached buildings blend into the environment. The trees have been bypassed or integrated with the buildings. No excavation or levelling of the ground has been made. Nature has been voluntarily respected.

To meet the shortage of electricity and water, clean solutions have been installed. Electricity is generated by solar panels. The tank for the recovery of rainwater is functional.

Analysis : social, political, economic

If Dominican law demands 8 years of primary school studies, in reality it’s quite different. Despite the efforts made by the country in recent years, the records in 2011 show more than 40% of the population living below the poverty level. The rate of poverty and of extreme poverty of children remains particularly high. Despite favourable periods of economic growth, significant social inequalities remain.

Many children from poor families or from rural backgrounds still have reduced access to health and education because of their cost. Thus, numerous families encourage their children to drop out of school, to go to work and participate in the financial resources of the home. Clear improvements are underway in the field of education but all children are not enrolled in primary school. Also due to high repetition and drop-outs, only 60% of children complete the basic education cycle. Source : EI barometer of human and trade union rights in the area of education – Sept 2012

According to the Ministry of Education, for the 8 years of compulsory school attendance, the end of the average school attendance in the country finishes in the 6th year (end of primary school). Source : EI barometer of human and trade union rights in the area of education – Sept 2012

On the other hand, the labour code in the Dominican Republic prohibits children under 14 from working. However, one realizes that this law is hardly applied. In 2012, the ILO estimated that 18% of children from 15 to 17 worked and that thousands were employed before the age of 14 in small businesses, illegal factories, and even in the field of prostitution.

Disadvantaged Dominican teenagers work in the sugar cane fields. Children under 12 plant sugar cane for a ridiculous amount as low as US$ 1 (30 pesos) per day. Source : EI barometer of human and trade union rights in the area of education – Sept 2012

Even though the official statistics show the country to ensure food self-sufficiency, in reality this is not the case. Rice, staple food of the Dominicans, is mainly imported from the United States. Thus, there are many Dominicans who do not eat their fill. This is particularly true in the Cabrera region which is an area of low economic development, and even more so in the 3 communities in the zone of influence of the school. A strange fact, the rice produced in the Dominican Republic is exported… but, on the other hand, the Dominican Republic imports rice!

According to « the report of the International Commission for the strategic development of the Dominican Republic - 2010 », the rate of infant mortality (mortality rate of children under 5 years per 1000 births), was 36% in 2007. According to projections, this rate should be around 24.2% in 2015. The main source of infection in children and adults are amoebas, present in streams and water distribution networks. A study by the WHO in 1999 showed a 65.5% rate of infection in children of school age (Blastomyces hominis (27%), Entamoeba coli (26.7%) and Giardia Lamblia (17.7%) as most present). An analysis of the school children’s health at « Los Niños del Arco Iris » conducted in 2007 showed that 100% of the children were infected. They have all been treated and the costs have been covered by the Foundation.

Hence the certainty that the creation of a truly formative school meets a real need, and is strongly desired by the Dominicans themselves. The extreme youthfulness of the population – 50% under 16 – requires a good quality of education to ensure the future of the country.

Ethnical, racial or religious conflicts are non-existent in this country. As the Dominicans are peaceful and non-violent, the crime rate is extremely low in relation to other countries in the world. There is political stability in this country. Since the date of the Constitution in 1966, the democratic regime has never been questioned.

Since 1985, the annual growth rate has been higher than 5%. It even reached 7% in 1996, one of the highest in Latin America. Between 2002 and 2004, the country experienced an unprecedented economic drop. However, the situation has slowly improved since the autumn of 2004.

It is very difficult to obtain statistics or analyses on illiteracy or other delicate social themes. Note the absence of any agency such as an Office for the control of inhabitants.

The beginning of the first school year was in 2006, when the School took in 36 children aged from 7 to 12 years. For the first six months, their knowledge, their skills, and their interest in different areas of life were observed. After the first semester, two classes were formed to allow each child to find their place in learning.

At the beginning of each school year, the School welcomes a new class of 22 first year primary students.

Instruction is given according to the National programme for Education in the Dominican Republic, to which is added a European contribution. The purpose of the school is to lead the students into obtaining a maturity or an international baccalaureate, which would open the doors to European or American universities. Provided by 14 teachers (13 Dominicans and 1 Swisss), the trilingual teaching in Spanish, French and English is introduced from the 3rd school year. It will also permit the preparation of the children for shorter vocational training from the 9th year.

From the beginning of schooling, the aim is to bring the child to the discovery of their autonomy by making them capable of thinking for themselves, of doing their own research and daring to take the risk of making choices, while being attentive to respecting the values and concern for others and nature. They are also encouraged to communicate, to demonstrate open-mindedness, to show balance and have the capacity to change themselves.

The overriding interest of the program is formed from the questions the child asks about their surroundings or their interests.

Questions like:

  • Why doesn’t the moon fall from the sky?
  • Why can I buy a doll with my money?
  • Why does mummy have a big belly?
  • When I am big, can I be a fireman?

allow the teachers to address different subjects such as concepts of space, astronomy, mathematics, biology, physics, chemistry, technology, social sciences as well as vocabulary, grammar, languages, social training, arts and physical education. This approach is the essential medium for learning.

The teaching staff is essentially formed of Dominicans and reinforced by teachers from other countries in the world. Each teacher teaches in their mother tongue, and receives support through in-service training.

The children receive an education in harmony with their living environment. In accordance with the Statutes of the Foundation, the teachers as well as all the adults working at the School teach the children the highest human values.

The School does not intervene in religious beliefs. This aspect is a parental responsibility.

The plans of the 1st school building, the children’s house, the canteen, the administrative building and sanitary facilities were established by a Swiss architect, Mr Herman Hofmann. The plans take into account earthquake and anticyclone safety standards. Mr Hofmann worked as a volunteer. As for the plans for the electrical system, these were done by two other volunteers, Mr Antoine Barras and Mr Philippe Nanchen.

The project is built in several phases.

First phase – The 1st school building with 2 classrooms, the sanitary facilities, the technical room and the water tank were finished in August 2006.

Second phase – The 2nd school building with 2 classrooms, the staff store, the infirmary and the staff room were finished in August 2010.

Third phase – The 3rd school building with 4 classrooms, secretary’s office, outbuildings, an extra kitchen and supplementary sanitary facilities were finished in August 2012.

Fourth phase – The 4th school building with 5 classrooms and a storeroom.

Fifth phase – Transformation of the 1st bulding in canteen and auditorium.

The management of the Foundation, as well as that of the funds coming from donations represents an important subject for the Committee of the Foundation. It is set on using the maximum of funds received for the purpose of the Foundation. In other words, it means to minimise operating and administrative expenses so that these do not exceed 5% of the donations. Currently, this objective is achieved.

The management of the Foundation is subject supervision by the Swiss Confederation. This supervision is exercised not only on the management of funds, but also on the respect for the goals laid down in the statutes of the Foundation. To date and since its inception, the Foundation has received a certificate of conformity every year on behalf of the supervisory body.

In addition, for the purpose of self-control and transparency to the outside world, the Committee of the Foundation has had the annual accounts audited by an approved auditing firm, even if the law did not require this until December 2005.

Furthermore, the Committee of the Foundation as a whole goes to Cabrera about once a year, entirely at its own expense, to check on the progress of the works and see the school is functioning well.

Operating Costs

The rigorous management of the School obtains a daily operating cost of CHF 2.80 or € 2.60 per child [based on year 2015-2016]. This cost includes all the management expenses for the school such as the teaching, the school bus and outings, the food, the caretaking, the maintenance of the school and grounds, the repairs, … but also the amortization of the construction of the buildings. This cost should go down in the coming years with the increase in the number of children educated at the school and with full capacity utilization.

In addition, the school employs 32 people in order to function well. Thus, the salaries paid from the funds received by the Foundation for the children also make it possible for 32 families to live in decent conditions.

So that the children can pursue graduate studies at university, scholarships should be assigned to them. The Foundation has 3 years to establish a network of contacts to this end. It is worth noting that Fundapec, a Dominican Foundation created in 1967, is designed to offer scholarships of this type. Partnerships will also be established with European, Canadian and American universities so that the young graduates of the school can continue their studies at these universities, if they wish to.

The President of the Foundation has contacted « the Association of the Professionals of Cabrera » which helps young students from the municipality of Cabrera, in order to enable them to follow university studies in Santo Domingo. This Association owns a house in the university village. The students, who are fed and housed for free, can walk to their classes and this avoids the use of public transport in Santo Domingo, which is expensive and inefficient. The collaboration between this Association and the Foundation will be of benefit to our students.

Summer 2000
Purchase of a piece of land of 2.2 hectares in Cabrera for the construction of the scholastic center.
September 2006

Official inauguration of the school. The first class consisted of 25 students aged 7 to 8 and two part-time Dominican teachers.

August 2008

Purchase of a bus in order to organize student transport and school outings.

September 2008
Opening of a second class, bringing the total number of students to 44.
May 2009

Construction of a new building with two classrooms, a storeroom, an infirmary, as well as a teachers' room, serving also as meeting room and library.

September 2009

Opening of three new classes to cover the entire primary cycle from first grade to fifth grade, making a total of 110 students. Arrival of three new teachers.

September 2010
Opening of a new class of 22 students, bringing the total to 132 students for the center. The oldest students have accomplished all their schooling at the center and this year enter the 6th grade, which is the first year of secondary studies.
May 2011
Construction of the major part of the third school building, consisting of four classrooms and a storeroom. Two classrooms are finished and available to the students.
September 2011

Opening of a new class, taking the scholastic center capacity to 160 students. Arrival of two new teachers.

August 2012
The 3rd school building is finished. Two additional classrooms are available for the children. Restrooms, a washroom, a laundry and a place to prepare breaks and do administrative tasks have also been finalized.
September 2012

Opening of a new classroom that allows a complete education cycle from the 1st to the 8th grade. A management assistant has been hired.

August 2013

Purchase of the 2nd bus for student transport.

September 2013
Opening of a new classroom, the first one for the high school studies. 195 students attend the school.
February 2014

Construction of a staircase between the school bus stop and the school buildings.

Construction of a garage that protects the 2 buses from bad weather while they are parked and insures security for the children‘s arrival and departure.

September 2014

Organisation and protection of a library worthy of its name (organisation and itemisation of the 3000 books available to us by a professional librarian).

Opening of the 2nd class for high school studies, bringing the number of students at the center to 225.

March 2015

Security of the school perimeter achieved. A protective wall was built along the last open section.

August 2015

The purchase and installation of 10 new solar panels, the purchase of 24 batteries to store electricity, as well as a new uninterruptible power supply (UPS) (inverter) to handle the increase in electrical usage. In fact, all the electricity at the center is produced by solar panels. This meets a triple objective:

  • To ensure the center’s energy self-sufficiency. Electricity from the network suffers numerous cuts every day and is, therefore, only supplied a few hours per day.
  • To have a Scholastic Center as ecological as possible.
  • To teach the children respect for nature and the harmonious use of natural resources.

Main construction work of the 4th and last school building consisting of 6 classrooms.

September 2015

Opening of the 3rd class for high school studies, bringing the number of students at the school to 242.

The extension of the scholastic center is necessary in order to attain the Foundation's objectives, namely to educate disadvantaged children throughout the complete cycle of pre-university study, consisting of five years of primary school, three years of secondary school, and four years of high school. This up-to-date education will allow the individual development of each child. The average number of students per class is fixed at 22, which means that 264 children will be able to receive education in the best conditions.

The following is a list of the steps in the extension project, in chronological order:

  • Construction of the fourth and last school building containing 6 classrooms. This last building will permit the scholasticScholastic Center to include all the 12 classes necessary for the complete cylce of pre-university study. Thus, 264 children, with an average of 22 children per class, will be educated in the best conditions, from first through twelfth grade.
  • Thanks to this new building, it will be possible to redesign the 1st school building so that it can be used as a refectory (today the children eat in the classroom where they are being taught due to the lack of adequate space), as well as a meeting room and theatre; especially for the traditional Christmas play performed for the parents. They haven’t been invited for the past 3 years because of the lack of space. Furthermore, this project will allow us to obtain lower costs for transformation than for construction of a refectory and theatre building.
  • Construction of new sanitary buildings due to the increasing number of students.
  • Construction of a guardhouse.
  • Construction of a sports field, for example, for basketball. Sports are taught now but without any sports facilities. The planned sports field will allow children to practise sport in conditions similar to their European peers. Basketball is the most traditional sport in the Dominican Republic, after baseball, the national sport. The children would be free to use the sports field after classes.