Holes in Puerto Lopez classroom roof

Rain in the Classroom


“We get rained on while sitting at our desks.”
— Augustine, high school student in Puerto Lopez

A friend asked if we could help a Puerto Lopez student, Augustine, with his leaky classroom roof.

Augustine gave us a school tour and explained the issue – students unlucky enough to sit under holes in the roof get wet during rains. They remove their books so they don’t ruin them. Government funding was not available because the school was slated to be replaced.

Holes in classroom roof
Roof in need of repair

I wondered how could anyone learn in that environment.

Augustine and his classmates had been working on the roof issue for some time. They lobbied their parents. Each family contributed $3 toward the cause and could afford no more. The students bought new roofing material, planning to patch the roof themselves.

Roofing materials in classroom
Roofing material on the floor waiting for an installation expert

They had no roofing expertise. None of their families had construction experience. These were fishing families. If it were a leaking boat or damaged fishing net, they might be the right people. But this was neither.

The students spent a Saturday trying to figure out how to fix the roof. They stood on the roof and stood on the ground. They held up the material and set it back down. Finally, they went home. They were stuck.

The students viewed Augustine as their leader because he was the oldest. By far. As a 24 year old 10th grader, he was their adult representative as well as their classmate. The school trusted him enough that he had keys to the school gate and the classroom.

After he completed 9th grade, Augustine’s father fell ill. Augustine quit school to take his father’s place as the family’s primary wage earner. Years later when he was healthy, the father insisted the son finish his education.

It was now Augustine’s responsibility to find someone to help with the roof. He talked to several construction experts. The lowest quote he obtained was for two roofers working two full days. He dreaded telling his classmates they couldn’t afford the roof repairs.

He mentioned his frustration to our mutual friend, who recruited us and two other couples to help. We hired Angel, a construction expert we knew who said it would take no more than one day as long as Augustine helped.

Angel and Augustine repairing roof
Angel and Augustine on the classroom roof

Angel, Augustine, my husband and I spent a morning repairing the roof. We used the materials Augustine and his classmates had purchased. Once the materials were installed, some cracks remained in the old roofing material. Angel ran to town and bought silicone caulk and a caulking gun.

Angel repairing roof
Angel on plank demonstrating how to caulk

Angel demonstrated how to caulk, then Augustine sealed cracks to prevent new leaks.

Augustine repairing roof
Augustine perfecting his caulking technique

The total bill for us and the other couples was $27. That’s $9 per couple to provide students a dry classroom.

Augustine was thankful that Angel allowed him to be his shadow. Angel was thankful that Augustine was willing to learn anything that involved heights and wobbly planks. We and the other couples who hired Angel were thankful that Augustine mentioned this issue to our friend.

Everyone involved was proud of Augustine and impressed that he was getting his education and setting a great example.

How does this classroom differ from the ones you had?

I am a US Expat in Ecuador. I grew up on a Minnesota farm, worked in IT in California's Silicon Valley, then moved to a coastal Ecuador fishing village. My goal is to share Ecuador with you, one snippet at a time. Topics include attractions, compassion, ecotourism, Ecuador products, everyday Ecuador, and flora and fauna. Please let me know what you would like to read more about!


  • Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Emily – just slightly … and now my classrooms actually are still going strong – 60 years later – but new ones have been added … we are very lucky we live in a western country. Those in South America, Africa and India … are resourceful … and may just be more knowledgeable about so many aspects that our youngsters of today do not … Augustine and his siblings will know so much about the great outdoors. I am so pleased everyone helped and there's a dry classroom now – wonderful to see … cheers Hilary

    • Emily Bloomquist

      How wonderful that your classrooms are still around, Hilary. The ones I went to are, too. Yes, Augustine and his siblings are very knowledgeable about the great outdoors and resourcefulness. Thanks so much for your comment.

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