Poverty & Education
The Need in Numbers
- 40%: The illiteracy rate among indigenous Guatemalans
- Three-fourths: The proportion of Guatemalan children in the Western Highlands who live in poverty
- $3-$6 a day: The average daily earnings of rural Guatemalan families in the communities CoEd serves
- Nine out of ten: The proportion of schools in rural Guatemala that lack books
- 60%: The percentage of entry-level jobs in Guatemala that require computer skills
- 100%: The percentage of Guatemalan middle- and high-school students in some communities who had never used a computer prior to the arrival of our program
- 38%: The percentage of Guatemalan children who enroll in middle school
- 1.8: The average number of years an indigenous Guatemalan woman stays in school
Poverty in Guatemala is high and deep.
It disproportionately affects the country’s indigenous Mayans. They make up half of the population, but account for less than a quarter of total income and consumption. A typical Mayan laborer earns less than $4 a day. Poverty rates in rural Guatemala often exceed 70%.
Guatemala's Civil War
Historically, government policies excluded Mayans from sharing in the benefits of the country’s economic growth. Indigenous Guatemalans remain targets of racism, exclusion (from land, labor, and education), and injustice. They also endure the brutal legacy of a 36-year civil war that left more than 200,000 dead and hundreds of thousands more displaced. The hostilities ravaged the fabric of Mayan communities across the Western and Central Highlands, many of which struggle, even after nearly two decades of formal peace, to recover from the violence.
Educational Quality Suffers
The Maya also experience low literacy and a lack of formal schooling. Illiteracy rates among indigenous adults reach as high as 40%. Educational attainment is extremely low, only four years on average. Indigenous women typically complete fewer than two years of schooling. Experts estimate that for every 100 children in Guatemala, fewer than 40 will continue on to seventh grade, and only 18 will complete high school.
For those fortunate enough to stay in school, the quality of education is often abysmal. Teachers lack formal training and the resources—such as textbooks, technology, and other materials—they need to facilitate learning. Many young people in rural communities fail to develop proper study skills. Low enthusiasm, lack of motivation, and poor academic performance lead to high dropout rates. And the cycle of poverty continues.
CoEd intervenes early in the lives of vulnerable children to help them become productive and fully-participating members of their communities—and of Guatemalan society.