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Sanitation, Education & Development

Current Project Leads
About the Project

The Nicaragua Schoolhouse Project site is  located in San Sebastián, a rural town near the east coast of Nicaragua. Our goal is to build a new schoolhouse structure for educational and community uses. Throughout the construction, we will work with local residents, including people from San Sebastián and its surrounding communities: Cano Negro, Cano Azul, and Nuevo Alianza. By working with the local communities, we aim to create accessible educational institutions for all students in the region and establish a multipurpose space for the surrounding communities. 

In 2017, a team of UCLA students and professional engineers traveled to San Sebastian on an assessment trip to address these educational needs. UCLA’s Engineers Without Borders members have completed two implementation trips across a four-year period to carry on the project. We have poured all of the footings and half of the continuous concrete beam for the structure’s foundation.  

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our team has decided to monitor the construction remotely, ensuring the safety of both our members and the local residents. Currently, we are working with the contractors and completing the foundation of the schoolhouse. Our first phase of remote construction will begin on March 1, 2021.

Screen Shot 2021-01-25 at 10.47.18

A brief description of the schoolhouse details created by both the San Sebastian community and UCLA EWB members includes the following:


  • 2 classrooms separated by partitions

  • a middle hallway

  • mini-falda construction (a concrete masonry unit (CMU) wall approximately 2-3' in height connected to a wooden frame

  • wooden trusses for the roof with metal sheets nailed on top

side profile blueprint of schoolhouse

EWB-UCLA and San Sebastian community members on the most recent in-person trip in April 2018

EWB-UCLA Nicaragua's remote team

About San Sebastián, Nicaragua

San Sebastián is a small community, marked with the red pin in the map above. The community of San Sebastián has a population of over 65 families, and the residents there have a literacy rate of 85%.  Each family owns approximately 10-20 manzanas (1 manzana is equal to 10,000 square meters). Being the central area of nearby communities in the region, San Sebastián is surrounded by the communities of Cano Negro, Cano Azul, and Nuevo Alianza. Bluefields is the closest city to the construction site. It takes approximately 45 minutes to travel from Bluefields to San Sebastián by car. 
The major road in the area is most conveniently used during the summer season since it floods during the rainy season. In addition, the most common form of transportation is by foot or by horse due to the predominantly agricultural economy in the area. Most families own small crops and farms (chickens, pigs, cows, etc.) or work as lumberjacks. Families in the community have access to radio and electricity (although electricity is used sparingly), and community announcements are broadcasted via radio each morning. 



Currently, the poor condition of San Sebastian’s existing schoolhouse is creating problems for the surrounding communities. There are multiple cracks allowing water leakage into the structure. Moreover, the existing schoolhouse has a  6 meter x 6 meter footprint only, forcing multiple classes to be held in the same room at the same time. These issues not only lead to a stressful learning environment but also create a challenge for the teacher and students, for both of them are easily distracted. 

Another problem discussed by the head schoolteacher in San Sebastián is student attendance. Although there are about 100 eligible students in the area, approximately 45 of the children do not attend school. Travel, distance, flood season, and a lack of time are some reasons for this lack in attendance. Many students have to work to support their families. Thus, San Sebastián is proposing to implement a new program, which is similar to a summer school or summer camp. They aim to gather all children in San Sebastian and let them stay in school for the entire week during the Christmas holiday, Holy week holiday, and Independence day holiday. However, in order to do this, San Sebastian would need to provide lodging for the surplus of students. This is another reason why San Sebastián is proposing to remodel its existing schoolhouse structure. A larger schoolhouse with a dorm & board building is in needed to accommodate all students.

Future Plans

After completing the schoolhouse’s foundation with our February 2021 implementation, we aim to complete the wooden frame and roof of the structure.  We also plan to continue fundraising to complete the school as soon as possible.


If you would like to help us complete our project, please donate using the following link:

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us at

Project S.E.D.
Project Sanitation, Education, and Development (S.E.D.) is a three part project implemented in Nicaragua.  Our current phase, Education, aims to make structural improvements to the current minifalda structure design. Below are some preliminary suggestions on how Project S.E.D. would assist in the construction of the mini-falda structure of the schoolhouse: 
  • Alignment of concrete masonry and wooden columns 

  • Elimination of unnecessary beam and truss elements

  • Improvement of connection of CMU wall to wooden frame above wall

  • Improvement of connection of metal sheet roof to wooden truss

  • Improvement of building foundation (no foundation was provided for existing schoolhouse)

  • Improvement of watertightness

  • Development of the structural lateral system

  • Mitigation of noise due to rain hitting the roof (through addition of filler or noise-cancelling material in the roof)

So far, our team has excavated the site in order to pour 22 pad footings. Half of the continuous concrete beam has been structured with rebar, and concrete has been poured in these sections. We are currently in the process of completing a remote implementation to complete the entire foundation of the structure.
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