Education Equals Empowerment

Rural schools face challenges

By Caitlan and Luke Smith

Former President Colom "took care" of primary education in 2009 when he declared primary education free, but what about secondary education? Although secondary schools are widely available in metropolitan areas, they come with enormous fees, relatively speaking, and in rural areas, secondary schools are often non-existent. If a rural area would like to found a secondary school, the government endorses one type of schooling with partial funding, Telesecundaria, a DVD based curriculum using discussion of video material fostered by a trained Telesecundaria educator. This program, created in Italy, according to Casasito Activity Coordinator Paulo Monteiro, has been largely successful in Mexico, but it faces a plethora of problems in rural Guatemala.Monteiro says that the Guatemalan government needed a way to endorse education in rural regions, so they imported Telesecundaria.

However, they implemented no funding for teachers, unsurprising considering that Guatemala spends merely 3.2 percent of its GDP on education.

To start a secondary school, rural villagers must first acquire a school building as well as a TV and a DVD player. This requires huge financial resources for villagers who usually make only a few dollars a day. Once the building is acquired, the government sends the village its endorsement of Telesecundaria, a box of DVDs, a handful of textbooks and a teacher, which, in Guatemala, is a high school graduate with a diploma for teaching. No additional training is offered to the teachers.

Although this type of education apparently works in Mexico, another problem remains: most rural Guatemalan villages lack electricity. To make up for this deficit, the villagers must raise additional funds to buy a generator. Then the students must contribute funds each week to pay for gas (from 1 to 5 Quetzals or .12 to .60 USD). This makes the cost of secondary education crippling, further marginalizing the country’s minority Mayan population.