“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
~ Nelson Mandela
This week, school bells across Guatemala will ring once again, welcoming back students and beginning the next step in their academic growth. Compared to statistics presented a decade ago, the World Bank has reported an increase in children participating in primary and secondary education, with the latter doubling in size in Guatemala over the past ten years.
As one of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations has declared the need to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” In the case of Guatemala, the ability for children to obtain an education is essential to breaking the cycle of poverty not only through access to quality jobs, but also by fostering innovation that will create new opportunities for future generations.
Since 2016, the Guatemalan government has made efforts to provide better training for teachers, address critical infrastructure issues, and apply a new methodological approach in the design and evaluation of texts and educational materials. These objectives collectively form a strategy for improving the quality of education in Guatemala, with the results to be reviewed in 2020.
However, while plans to improve the national education system shows promise, it comes at a time when Cooperative for Education reports that 70% of people in rural Guatemala live in poverty. The World Bank further reports that 48% of all Guatemalan live on less than $5.50 a day, one of the highest poverty rates at international poverty lines among Latin American nations.
Despite the existence of public schools and compulsory attendance mandated by the government, these statistics reflect the harsh reality for many families in Guatemala that simply cannot afford the costs and fees for ‘school activities’ associated with public schooling, much less private schools and institutions of higher education. For these reasons, while rates of participation and enrollment in education have improved, illiteracy and dropout rates remain high, with Cooperative for Education reporting that 95% of students in rural Guatemala do not graduate from high school.
In the regions where Maya Traditions operates, many elementary schools are public, but fill up quickly and tend to be underfunded and limited in resources. Here too private schools are an option, but are out of financial reach for most families.
What makes high school unique in Guatemala is that while many public high schools in the United States provide a wide variety of courses, their Guatemalan counterparts focus on a specific degree program for students to specialize in. With programs ranging from accounting to computer science, graduating students are provided the skills and training needed to enter the workforce, or to pursue a University degree.
~ An MTF Youth Education class in session
Maya Traditions believes that education should be easily accessible for all and not a burden. Our Youth Education Program not only eases the struggle that families face to pay for school related costs, but it also cares for the overall development of the young students. Being a part of the Youth Education Program means that students will be involved in and give back to their community through the program’s community service. Students will gain closer contact with their roots by participating to the program’s cultural activities which highlight Maya Culture, and will receive professional orientation in order to be able to choose a degree program that best fits their interest.
By supporting the education of our partner artisans’ children, we hope to contribute to Guatemala’s present and future.