MONTEVIDEO – Former President Jose Mujica, who is now a senator, has opened an agricultural school for 60 youngsters next to his small farm on the outskirts of Montevideo as part of a personal project with Uruguay’s Trades University, or UTU.
“We decided to do this a long time ago, but until now other obligations had taken us in different directions,” the 79-year-old Mujica said at the grand opening on Thursday.
As a young man, Mujica was a farmer and grew flowers before joining the Tupamaro guerrillas in the 1960s.
Mujica was a political prisoner for 13 years and served as this South American country’s president from 2010 to 2015.
Last weekend, Mujica, who lives on the farm with his wife, former guerrilla and now Sen. Lucia Topolansky, handed over the presidential sash to Tabare Vazquez.
“We don’t have children. This is the place we built with much effort and we want it to be left for the neighborhood and for education. When we are not here anymore, we want to be remembered as two crazy oldies who left a school,” the 70-year-old Topolansky told Efe in a recent interview.
The school is located across the road from Mujica’s small farm in Rincon del Cerro, and the first course will provide agricultural training to some 60 students.
“Students will be at the school from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., going through the regular academic curriculum, which includes mathematics, English, language, social sciences and, in addition, they will work the land several hours a day,” UTU director Eduardo Davyt told reporters.
Students will learn basic techniques for growing vegetables and fruits, and will also work “with small animals, like chickens and egg-laying hens,” Davyt said.
Mujica has donated the tools and machinery required for classes to UTU.
“We now have all the land Mr. Mujica provided, along with equipment,” Davyt said. “We will add some equipment and tools but, basically, we have what we need.”
The trainees will carry on practices at the farm.
“I want to express my gratitude to the companies that have cooperated without charge,” Mujica told El Observador newspaper. “A friend’s firm rebuilt the roof in the back of the building, and a carpenter donated those tools you see over there.”
The former president said he wanted to involve area residents in the project.
“These people have a lot to contribute because they realize how important this school is,” he said. “And they will cooperate in spreading knowledge.