Scholarships – The Biggest Impact for Positive Change!
Education equals empowerment. Education is change and creates change for the better. Education is the single most vital element in combating poverty and promoting human rights.
The most accomplished goal to date has been to develop a scholarship program for middle and high school students of Nimasac. This program began in the fall of 2017 for the 2018 school year, which in Guatemala runs from mid-January through mid-October. We are pleased to report that we exceeded our goal and are providing scholarships for 18 students, girls and boys, ages 12 – 23, through the generous sponsorship of twenty-one individuals. Scholarships are two levels: one for local schools, and another level for attendance at private schools in Quetzaltenango. The commitment to these students will continue as long as they meet their obligations of good grades and attendance. Scholarship awards cover, where appropriate:
- Registration fees for enrollment
- Books and other supplies
- Monthly tuition
- Other fees
- ‘replacement’ cost of the child’s contribution to the family economics
The scholarship program has some specific requirements to ensure success. These include:
- A local Nimasac scholarship committee made up of both church and community members, both men and women
- Scholarships students should go to as many girls as boys, or a close to that percentage as possible
- The group of scholarship students must include at least one-third from the community vs from the church
- The requirement to attend school regularly (cannot miss classes more than 2 weeks) and to show the report card to the Committee at the end of terms. Copies are sent to Esperanza
- Students and parents attend the monthly Committee meeting.
- Being present for meetings with the Esperanza group from the US for enrollment and for the concluding celebration
- Maintain passing grades
The scholarship program is overseen by a committee of five persons from Cary Presbyterian Church. They receive copies of the student’s grades and pass these on to the sponsors. The families of the scholarship students are extremely grateful that their son or daughter can continue schooling with the awarding of a scholarship. Here are some photos of one of the monthly meetings.
Schooling in Guatemala
Although public school is free in Guatemala, the cost of the required school uniform, shoes, backpack, books, school supplies, etc. is more than most families in rural Guatemala make in many months. Furthermore, local—that is, nearby—schools are not in every community, and certainly not in Nimasac. The nearest middle school/high school is in Chajabal, a town which is more than a 45 minute walk away, with a tuk-tuk* being the only transportation option. The cost of using a tuk-tuk is too high for most families, and few have vehicles. When you consider much of the school year takes place in the long rainy season, you can see this is a challenge. Most students drop out after sixth grade; few can graduate from 8th grade, and even fewer have the opportunity to go to high school.
*A tuk-tuk is a little 3 wheel vehicle, similar to a scooter with a 2 person backseat, used as a taxi in small towns and rural areas.
The inability to continue schooling is disproportionately high for girls. One father of an 8th grade student said they did not encourage their daughter to go to high school (the oldest child in the family) because they were concerned she would just drop out to get married anyway. Marriage for girls 16 years through 18 years is common, thus perpetuating a cycle of poverty. Many girls finish schooling at 6th grade, and a few children do not even complete that much.
Like many government services in Guatemala, the schools are woefully underfunded. The buildings are in disrepair and the supplies and textbooks are slim. In 2014, the law regarding teacher training requirements changed. Prior to that time, one of the most desired ‘majors’ for high school students was teaching. Upon completion of their degree, individuals with a high school degree in education could be employed as teachers. The new law requires teachers receive a university degree, much like an A.A. degree from a community college or university in the US. This means both maturity and better schooling will help raise the level of teacher skills. Previously, teacher training relied heavily on rote teaching methodologies and non-critical thinking.
It is Esperanza’s hope to be able to resource the local teachers more by offering workshops and other helps to emphasize creative learning strategies.
How You Can Help
Sponsor a student!
Note: we request a three-year commitment for any sponsorship. We also request a letter introducing the sponsor, sent down to Guatemala each October, and expect letters from students to come back via email in the summer, as well as in the fall of each year. We also encourage going to Guatemala for a personal meeting when possible.
Sponsorship Level One, for local scholarships is $275/year. First payment is 50% of this and is due by October 1, 2018. The balance is due January 1, 2019. Local schools are defined as ones in the area, and are government sponsored schools. One of these is all the way down the mountain, but not as far as the city of Quetzaltenango (also known as Xela).
Sponsorship Level Two, for private schools in Xela, the cost is $900/year. This scholarship supports a student who is either in Middle or High School. Some of the students for the year 2018 are young adults who had to leave school after 8th grade and are now able to finish their education!
Scholarships may be shared; in some cases, three sponsors are providing funds so that a student may attend a private high school in Xela.
Contact us for more information.