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Education in Guatemala: Supporting the Unreached and Underserved

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Posted on 4/1/2013

As one of its Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations hopes that by 2015, children around the world will be able to complete at least their primary schooling. This is already a reality in developed nations, but in many countries where ChildFund works, a full education is often a luxury.

In particular, education in Guatemala has much room for improvement. USAID reports that only two out of every five Guatemalan children finish the sixth grade, and almost 31 percent of citizens over age 15 can't read, according to the CIA World Factbook. Throughout the past decade, the Central American nation has made great strides in helping more youths graduate from high school and meet appropriate literacy standards, but, unfortunately, Guatemala must overcome several obstacles to ensure all of its children have access to education.

A Desperate Need for Funding

One of the factors that prevents people from accessing quality education in Guatemala is funding. According to UNESCO, about 18.5 percent of government spending is put toward education in Guatemala, but in most cases, this is simply not enough.

Many schools in Guatemala still do not have the space, faculty or materials they need to educate local children. This is especially true in rural villages, where few schools are properly equipped. When schools in Guatemala lack the resources to help children succeed academically and socially, the children are less likely to emerge from poverty as adults.

The Unreached Indigenous Population

Although poverty, under-resourced schools and inadequate access to education in Guatemala are serious problems found throughout the nation, these issues are far more prevalent in rural areas, which are largely populated by indigenous people of Mayan and African descent. Throughout Guatemala's turbulent political history, its indigenous people have suffered discrimination and severe poverty, which extends to schooling.

The highest percentage of Guatemalan children who are not enrolled in school live in rural areas like Alta Verapaz, Quiche and Huehuetenango, according to data from the Guatemalan Ministry of Education. These regions, largely populated by indigenous peoples, suffer crushing poverty, and many Guatemalan children must leave school to work and support their families. The U.N. Refugee Agency reports that indigenous children attend school only half as long as their non-indigenous peers, and they're far more likely to repeat grades.

To help give these children a chance for a happy and productive future, ChildFund works in Guatemala with local partners to give indigenous children the tools they need to receive an education and develop strong thinking skills and self-confidence. With your help, we can continue this important work.