USAID Programs Improve Education in Guatemala

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GUATEMALA CITY — Receiving an education may seem like a simple endeavor in some countries; however, for countries like Guatemala who have more than 50 percent of its population below the poverty line, it’s much more complicated. Several obstacles in in the country, specifically in rural areas, obstruct children’s access to all levels of education in Guatemala.

Thankfully, though, these issues have not gone unnoticed by organizations that seek to give everyone an equal opportunity to attend elementary, secondary and a higher education.

Accessibility to Transportation and Generous Donations

One issue that must be addressed is the struggle for children and their families to gain access to transportation to school, often in poor, rural areas. According to the Guatemalan Project, many youths in the village of El Triunfo lack the resources to pay for transportation as well as books, other school supplies and uniforms. As a result, children are often forced to drop out of school to support their families. According to the Global Education Fund, only about 65 percent of young students advance in their education and enroll into a secondary school.

To assist children in accessing the necessary resources for an education, the Global Education Fund has donated about $64,380. The Global Education Fund works with ADIMTU and Asturias to positively affect more than 2,400 students. The Guatemalan Project also assists youth in rural areas by offering a variety of scholarships, including one that supports children from El Triunfo. One scholarship, the Middle School Scholarship Program, helps children advance to a secondary education, allowing for more advanced skills and capabilities.

Educational Programs Reform Scholastic Opportunities

According to USAID, various education programs has drastically improved education in Guatemala over the past four years. As evidence, nearly 100 percent of children enroll in early, primary education; however, due to inefficient teaching styles and supplies, about 30 percent of students fail to pass third grade. The difficulty to obtain an education seems to increase as students advance in academic year, with enrollment dropping to less than 40 percent in middle school.

Inversely, the quality of education also decreases in Guatemalan schools with each subsequent academic year. Teachers are often undertrained and ill-equipped to teach to the universal standard; as a result, more than 2 million out-of-school children between the ages of 15 and 24 are unable to find work mostly due to a lack of formal training. Also, according to the Ministry of Education, only about 50 percent of third-graders achieve the mathematical and reading national standards.

USAID Intervention and Program Implementation

USAID has implemented several programs to combat substandard education in Guatemala. Most of the programs target children in the rural Western Highlands, which is an area with the least accessible education. The programs also focus on enhancing quality of education by supplying books, supplies and additional training for teachers as well as instructing mothers on how to assist their children in early, developmental-stage learning.

One USAID program, Expanded National Reading Program, successfully reached two million students in producing and distributing reading materials varying in Spanish and four other indigenous languages. The decision to diversify the printed languages is crucial to effectively assist children using the Intercultural and Bilingual Education Model.

The importance of supplying bilingual content is also important to Children of the World, who trains teachers to teach in a bilingual classroom style. Helping about 18,600 children and training nearly 700 teachers, Children of the World recognizes that the Mayan culture still exists and works to incorporate the Mayan language in classrooms to improve the literacy rate and education in Guatemala.

By increasing the accessibility to education in Guatemala through transportation, supplies and effective teaching, programs are working toward decimating poverty, specifically in rural areas. Through the accurate use of aid to in-need areas like the Western Highlands, Guatemala has seen significant improvements in education.

– Austin Stoltzfus
Photo: Flickr

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