Hi all. This is Ronnie, who you’re probably going to come to know as the one with the facts and figures. Throughout our journey I’ll do my best to fill you in on the information needed to put our experiences into context, for the big picture.
Since many of our activities so far (and, we expect, in the future) have to do with education, I thought I’d talk about the state of education here in Guatemala. The country has made strides in this area. A lot of new schools have been built (under President Colom’s initiative), and a big plus is that elementary education is free.
That said, there is a lot left to be desired. Kids technically have to attend elementary school for six years, but only 30% actually complete that level of education. And only 23-24% of those eligible actually attend secondary (high) school. The statistics are much worse in Guatemala’s particularly impoverished indigenous areas. The indigenous peoples attend school for an average of just 1.9 years, as compared to the 5.4 year country average.
One big issue is Guatemalans’ English proficiency. There are more job opportunities here for English speakers than there are English speakers. In recent years the development of a promising call center industry (to create 9000 jobs) stalled because there weren’t enough English-speaking Guatemalans to answer the phones. But on the bright side, the government responded fast by adding more English training to public school curricula and by offering 2000 scholarships for English learning. (Read more here.)
And among the people there certainly seems to be a lot of enthusiasm towards learning English. Volunteer Peten´s biblioteca is always filled with kids eager to practice their English, and a walk outside almost always involves being greeted by strangers hoping for an English exchange (with the rather conspicuous gringas that we are). As such, for now we spend much of our time (as Steph mentioned) doing what we do best—speaking (and teaching) English!
And the moment you´ve all been waiting for… photos! Click the Flickr (photo) box on the right-hand side (or here) to check them out.