Rural schools are neglected by the government and are plagued with inadequate space, insufficient lighting, poor maintenance and broken desks and chairs. The teachers are poorly trained and have no books or teaching materials. Students fail because they are more apt to serve as child laborers instead of attending class, their parents are illiterate so they cannot help with homework, or they simply cannot afford the school supplies.
We work with parents and teachers to strengthen the quality of education and provide access to learning opportunities for rural children. Our Teachers Helping Teachers program is designed to instill the love of learning at an early age.
It started with one teacher, Magely Luch, and nine at-risk kids in kindergarten in El Sargento. We hired a teacher to work in Magely’s classroom one on one with the nine kids while Magely worked with the remaining 18 students in her class. Our Director, Dr. Sharon Carlson, trained both teachers how to use the reading and math materials Sharon designed. After seven months students could spell four and five letter words, print the entire alphabet, and identify numbers up to 100.
We achieved phenomenal success with the pilot program. Young, indigenous kids can learn reading and math skills given activities, materials and well-trained teachers. Today, over 700 kindergarten students in 31 schools are advancing well beyond the Guatemala curriculum for their grade level and age.
We believe passionately that education is a means for achieving greater social equality and integrating the dignity and traditions of Guatemala’s indigenous cultures with the ever-changing wider world. Keeping kids in school is the only way to break the cycle of poverty but young adults face obstacles beyond their control. Their parents cannot afford school tuition and other expenses for junior high and high school students. Indigenous students living in remote villages are at a disadvantage because they do not have access to computers and the internet.
Our scholarship program supports 75% of the cost of tuition, uniforms, and supplies. The average cost per student support for one year is $531. Students are welcome to use computers and the internet at our field office, and take advantage of one-on-one tutoring in math, statistics, physics, and computer skills.
Each year we have more students apply for help than we have resources. To be accepted into our program, an applicant must prove need (we do a home visit), take a test designed to determine how committed he or she is to attending school, participate in an interview with the student’s parent/guardian, and grades from previous classes must be above a C average. The student and parent/guardian signs a contract detailing all of the responsibilities of the student, parent/guardian, and us.
Guidance is provided by our Scholarship Coordinator, who is a trained psychologist. Students’ grades are reviewed every three months and counseling is provided when necessary. Our goal is to help the students achieve passing grades and graduate from high school.
The vast majority of rural schools lack government support and are overcrowded. Many have leaky roofs and walls are deteriorating. Most do not have proper sanitary bathrooms or hand washing stations.
Building new classrooms and upgrading schools are critical improvements so teachers have adequate space to create an enhanced learning environment and students will be motivated to stay in school.
Teachers and parents express their needs to us in writing. Before any grant is approved, we arrange a site visit to determine feasibility, the quality of its leadership, commitment of the teachers and parents, and the level of enthusiasm for the project on the part of all involved. A budget for materials is created and, if it is an infrastructure project, a commitment from the local mayor to supply skilled labor is vital. We require the parents to contribute 25% of the cost of materials and they must volunteer their unskilled labor for each project.
People for Guatemala’s grants to schools have funded the following: