San Pedro Education
Growing up in Guatemala:
For Mayan students in the Lake Atitlán region of Guatemala, trying to make their way through the education system of Guatemala is not easy. Life for most people in this region is very difficult because of illiteracy, poor wages and a lack of sufficient arable land to support the population. Many parents struggle to feed their families on wages of only two or three dollars a day. Students of all ages are sometimes required to work in fields or markets in order to help the family eke out a living.
And when they graduate from primary school, things really get tough. When they begin ‘basico’ – the junior high level – they suddenly face school fees. If they make it through this level into ‘diversificado’ (senior secondary), the prices skyrocket. Often there isn’t even a senior secondary school available nearby, and they must travel long distances or board in another town to complete their secondary education.
Samuel (the tall boy on the left), with his family.
Without help, Samuel wouldn’t be in school
Giving a Hand Up:
Thanks to the generous support of donors, including employees and management of Pemberton Holmes and Harbord Insurance, as well as individual donors, ICO is currently supporting fifteen Mayan students in the Lake Atitlán Region in the highlands of Guatemala, both in San Pedro and in the nearby communities of San Pablo and Sololá. The money that is donated goes to pay their school fees, school expenses such as travel and uniforms, and food aid to their families (which allows the families to release them from working to earn money).
We are very pleased to report that this year two young people are graduating from high school with commerce training. They plan to work in local businesses and will be able to help younger members of their families continue their education, and so lift the families out of poverty. Next year there will be another young woman graduating from high school with training as a kindergarten teacher. The students are supported in Guatemala by two dedicated young men who work, voluntarily, as mentors and aides to the students and their families. Without them, this support would not be possible.
Noemi will graduate next year as a kindergarten teacher.
She is in her 3rd year of boarding in a different town in order to take her training.
A New School for Chiquijya
As of January, 2012, ICO is helping to establish a junior high school in Chiquijya, a village located 14 kilometers from Sololá, where the secondary schools are located. The road to Sololá is unpaved and difficult to travel during the rainy season. This, plus the expense of travelling to Sololá every day, means that many children of the village do not progress beyond primary school.
Therefore the parents of the village decided to set up their own junior high school. In Guatemala, it is the responsibility of parents (padres de familia) to establish and fund the initial stages of the development of a school, in the hope that the government will take over its running in the future. ICO received a request from Jesús Toc, a committed ICO volunteer, for help with the initial funding of this school and we agreed.
The classes are being held in the afternoon in the building of the primary school, which only operates in the morning. There are four teachers teaching a full range of subjects, and approximately 60 students enrolled in the first two levels of básico (junior high). The philosophy of the board is to create a bilingual (Kaqchikel-Mayan and Spanish) school in which these Kaqchikel students will become fluent in and proud of their first language, as well as Spanish, will become acquainted with and proficient in the use of modern technology, and will be prepared for further education in all the traditional subjects, such as math, science, the arts, physical education, etc.
This new school opened, with our help, in January 2012, and some of us will visit it at the end of February. We are really looking forward to meeting the students and teachers, and we will be able to report back with more information and photos at that time. In the meantime, we wish them well!
Students from Chiquijya, along with their parents, register for their new junior high school.