Camila describes her first week of classes at Universidad Nacional Casimiro Sotelo Montenegro, formerly Universidad Centroamericana (UCA), as “confusing, chaotic and disorganized”.
On the first day of classes she arrived at the campus at 8:00 a.m., as ordered by the new university authorities. In order to do so, she asked the work where she is doing her internship for permission and had to notify them of her new study schedule.
However, when she arrived at the university on the morning of January 15, she was told that her schedule had changed again. Her classes would not start at 8 a.m. as reported, but until 1 p.m. that same day.
“I had to go back to work because I had asked for leave only for the morning, not the afternoon. They were not going to believe me,” says the young student.
Recibe nuestro boletín semanal
Camila only needs two classes to finish her degree, which is why she decided to continue at the confiscated university and not at Universidad Rafael Landívar in Guatemala or Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas in El Salvador.
Both institutions offered continuity of studies for students coming from UCA, but on the condition that they had to complete at least one year of studies.
“The condition in the other universities is to study in them for at least one year and finish the process of completion of studies there. I’m already ahead in all of that, I only have one semester left. That’s why I stayed here,” she explains. However, she did not expect such disorganization at Casimiro Sotelo.
She also says that it is “obvious” that her new professors do not know the processes related to the degree program she is studying, such as the completion of classes she mentioned.
“In my case we have to do a project that is related to the major, but the professor when he arrived did not know what those projects were, nor what was needed to finish them. It was very noticeable that he improvised a lot in class,” she says.
Students change their research topics “out of fear”
The teachers’ disorganization in the classes did not only occur in Camila‘s classroom. Josefina, a senior psychology student, also points out that her new career coordinator and her new professors are not even professionals in that degree program.
“The new career coordinator is not a psychologist and neither are the professors who teach me. One is a general practitioner, and the other is a social worker. They told us so themselves,” she explains.
In her first week of classes, her classroom was also informed that some of their classes were going to be temporarily paused “while they organized internally.” “They have serious difficulties with re-entry students,” she adds.
For her, returning to the university “felt surreal.” Although the campus is the same as UCA, the new imagery and propaganda that floods the whole place gives it a totally different atmosphere, she says.
The atmosphere among the students, she says, ranges from nostalgia for their old professors to fear of the new staff.
Out of fear and safety, she and several of her classmates changed the subject of their graduation project and decided to start over, since they were related to the socio-political situation in the country.
“Now we cannot talk about what is happening in the country, nor at the university. I think that is critical for our education, because we should have a critical and analytical view of the context, but now we cannot learn that,” she says.
First-time students “face indoctrination”
Although many of the new teachers indicated from the beginning of their classes that they were not going to make comments related to the confiscation of the university and the situation of the country, other teachers wore red and black elements and spoke openly about the Sandinista martyr Casimiro Sotelo, as well as “the good government”.
According to the students interviewed by DIVERGENTES, the political discourse is directed especially at incoming students. “Obviously they do it to indoctrinate them and they know it’s harder to do it with the students who were here, who had history with the university and with our teachers,” says Camila.
After two days of not receiving classes, Camila finally received her first class near the end of last week. Although her schedule was set for the afternoon session, she was warned that this could still change, which compromises her with her responsibilities at her job.
“Luckily at my job they’ve been pretty understanding, but I can’t be coming in with schedule changes all the time. I’m worried that the schedule changes will continue, because there are many of us who are working,” she says.
In addition to administration changes and changes in the university’s identity, the absence of classmates is one of the most noticeable things for these young students.
Many students who were also less than a year away from completing their studies decided to finish their degrees at Jesuit universities in El Salvador and Guatemala.
Currently, the class sizes do not exceed ten students, but this does not only happen in the senior classrooms, but also in the reentry classrooms of other generations.
“A lot of sophomores and juniors left. The university is pretty empty compared to how it was before,” says Camila.
Josefina says she has noticed a decrease even in incoming freshmen. When she joined the university in 2020, her class was around 80 students and they were divided into two groups of 40. Now, there is only one group of new students who are less than 40.
“Yes, there are several people that have joined the university, but it was not the number of students that UCA used to have. It is much less,” she says.