Toward quality education in Los Planes, Guatemala

Dina and her daughters, Los Planes, Guatemala

The Guatemalan public education system faces the challenges of low quality and lack of access, specifically in rural communities. The indicators of educational quality measured through tests carried out on students in different grades and educational levels show that students are not learning adequately. 

Only one in ten graduates or 11% reach the achievement level in math and one third or 35% reach the achievement level in reading.

For education to be qualitatively better and become an opportunity to improve the lives of Guatemalans, it must be characterized by: 

  • having competent teachers who exercise proactive and dynamic leadership in the classroom; 
  • comply, as a minimum, with the 180 established class days and 810 effective hours of work; 
  • the timely delivery of support programs such as in-school meals, and lesson reinforcement which truly impact the teaching-learning process; 
  • parents who get involved in the school and assume their co-responsibility in the process; 
  • a National Base Curriculum, which develops skills for life and work; 
  • pertinent bilingual and intercultural teaching, which responds to the needs of the cultural context; 
  • members of civil society who are interested and involved in educational development.

In the rural communities of Guatemala, and in Santa Lucia Utatlan specifically, communities have lost interest as the municipal government has reversed itself recently by not prioritizing these types of programs. In past years the municipal leadership had implemented motivational strategies including workshops to improve the capacities of teachers and coaches, and expand cultural activities for children. 

In order to improve education, methods and strategies are required that  focus on academic success and guarantee the educational quality our communities need. To achieve this goal, performance assessments, after school reinforcement and nutritional lunches are an important place to begin and are possible now. This effort can start with families organizing to require changes, most importantly empowered mothers who can organize to work for change.

Our recent experience with mothers from Los Planes and Paxub’ highlighted the challenge they face when their children are young and they are trying to improve their lives. Not having access to child care, they have brought their children to the workshops, and have then been distracted and not able to participate in the program.  Asking for help, we are providing a tutor to teach classroom reinforcement for their children during the HCT program workshops.

Based on this, our HCT program participants are excited that as an organization we recognized the overlapping challenges for mothers and children. The HCT program was expanded to provide reinforcement for their children’s learning and is strengthened through additional class time and focused attention on their studies.  By mid June, the tutoring program had 16 children enrolled who attend the Escuelita (little school) de Los Planes in grades kindergarten to fourth grade.

Doña Dina:

“Thank you for thinking about our children and supporting us with this educational opportunity for them. Having the space to focus on our workshops is very helpful. We do not have a child care alternative, and must bring our children to the training, and as a result we are always concerned about the children, while at the same time, we are trying to focus on our workshop. Now our young children are being

tutored by Ixmucané Zavala, and we can avoid distraction in our workshops. It is an opportunity that supports mothers and children. Our community has become disinterested in providing quality education, as has our local government. Due to our own lack of resources, we cannot hire a tutor for our children.  My hope is that we all take advantage of this opportunity that the organization provides both to us as women and also to our children. We are grateful that the organization has provided a benefit like this. It feels like ViviendasLeon is always thinking about our needs”.