San Pedro Education

For Mayan students in the Lake Atitlán region of Guatemala, getting an education is difficult and costly. Much of the population is illiterate and supporting entire families on wages of two to three dollars a day, sometimes requiring students to work in fields or markets in order to help support their family.

When students begin ‘basico’–the junior high level–they are faced with school fees. If they make it through this level into ‘diversificado’ (senior secondary), the prices skyrocket. Often there is no senior secondary school available nearby, and they must travel long distances or board in another town to complete their secondary education.

In 2012, the first secondary school in the village of Chaquijya, San Pedro, was built through the support of ICO donations, volunteers, and village parents. Many of the parents are illiterate or have a Grade 3 education. Teacher salaries were paid through donations for the first year. Since then, the Guatemalan government has given basic financial support for some salaries, and the initiative has provided extra funds to help expand the school curriculum for its 70 students.

In addition to the basic curriculum of Spanish, English, Science, and Mathematics, the school teaches Mayan culture, Mayan language, trades and environmental studies. This initiative is continuing to provide salaries to part-time teachers in music, physical education, computer studies, home economics, and agronomy. ICO is also helping to fund the expansion of their tree nursery and reforestation project.

As well as supporting the Chaquijya school, ICO provides scholarships for five university students and two secondary students in the San Pedro area. All of these bright young people are from poor families, and ICO is making it possible for them to achieve their dreams, and help their families.

Our response to the Coronavirus crisis

During this time of the Coronavirus crisis, the San Pedro Education project would like to increase its support to our students and their communities by providing them with additional funding for food. The Atitlan area, where San Pedro and Chaquijya are located, rely heavily on foreign travellers who buy local crafts, study at local Spanish schools, use local transportation; stay and eat at small local hotels and restaurants. The borders to Guatemala are closed, tourism has disappeared, and this source of income has completely disappeared. It affects all, but especially the very poor who will lose day-labouring, craft and market jobs. The government is providing no aid to the poorest of the country.

There have been a few cases of Covid 19 in the area already, most brought by migrants returning from the US. The great worry is that it will expand greatly as there are neither good medical services, testing or tracking facilities.

Schools have been closed but we are continuing to fund the teachers and students as they try to do some kind of distance education. However, because most don’t have access to computers or TVs, this is difficult for them. We really hope that these students, who work so hard and value their education so much, will not lose a year of school.

Our long-time Guatemalan colleagues, Javier Navichoc and Jesus Toc, will work with us to obtain and distribute the food. They are both well connected to the communities and their institutions and are aware of those families most in need.

After May 19th people may donate to help out with the food support for the San Pedro Education Initiative. If you would like all or part of your donation to go to food aid, please indicate the amount in the comment box on this page. Thanks so much.

For more information contact our Initiative Lead:

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