Bridging the digital divide in rural Guatemala
Thirteen-year-old Ancelmo doesn’t remember his father. “My dad left home when I was very young to try to find work in the United States,” Ancelmo says. “I try to remember what he looks like but it’s hard.” Ancelmo’s mother is illiterate and doesn’t have a regular job. She can only afford to send one of her children to school. Ancelmo is the lucky one.
Computers Allow Kids to Shine
Ancelmo seems shy. That is, until he talks about the new CoEd Computer Center at his school. “I love science and math,” he beams. “With computers I can learn more about these subjects and use my knowledge in new ways.” He adds that he hopes to become a teacher someday and help other kids like himself. The Computer Centers give Ancelmo, and hundreds of young people like him, the tools they need to make life better—for themselves, their families, and their country.
While the rural poor continue to depend on farming as an important source of income, agriculture in Guatemala is in decline and will not provide new employment opportunities for tomorrow’s workers.
Computer Skills are in High Demand
Given this reality, rural Guatemalans, especially the young, must find jobs in other growth sectors, such as manufacturing, service, and tourism. However, nearly 60% of these jobs require computer skills. Young people in rural communities lack access to computer technology. Without technical skills, they face unemployment and economic hardship.
As the digital divide grows, so do income disparities, inequality, and poverty. Nearly 80% of Guatemalan middle and high school students lacked the opportunity to learn to use a computer prior to the arrival of our program.
Computer Centers Meet the Need
Establishing Computer Centers in rural community schools creates opportunities for rural youths to gain the skills they need to find higher-wage jobs and to permanently raise their standard of living. Furthermore, the program provides beneficiaries the opportunity to give back in meaningful ways that improve the lives of all community members.
How the Program Works
CoEd Computer Centers reside in middle schools throughout the Central and Western Highlands, providing young people with access to state-of-the-art technology.
Partnership with the Community
The community, with help from CoEd and its donors:
- Renovates the space
- Provides security
- Increases ventilation and air flow
- Installs lighting for the center
CoEd purchases all equipment in-country (supporting the local economy) and installs it once renovations are complete. A typical Computer Center houses 12-20 current-model PCs and monitors.
Computer Center Curriculum
Students receive approximately 60-120 minutes of hands-on computer instruction per week. They learn Microsoft Windows, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and can explore the outside world through Encarta.
All Computer Center students follow a standard, proven curriculum, developed by Cambridge University and provided in collaboration with Educación para el Futuro de Guatemala, an internationally recognized leader in K-12 computer education and training. The course of study consists of 100 lessons spread over a student’s three-year middle school education. At the end of the course, students take Microsoft’s Digital Literacy standardized test.
Students also learn to apply their technical knowledge to real-world situations. The project-based learning methodology used at CoEd Computer Centers not only encourages students to learn by doing, it also provides them with the opportunity to create positive change in their communities.
Students Giving Back
All students who graduate from a CoEd Computer Center use technology to “give back” to their communities. Through project-based learning, youths at our project schools learn to work cooperatively, think critically and creatively, and apply their computer knowledge to practical problems facing their communities.
- Learn more about how CoEd Computer Center students use their technical skills to make a positive impact.
Students pay a small fee (between $3 and $4 a month) to use the computers. The fees go into a revolving fund; the fund covers ongoing operating expenses (e.g. maintenance, computer teacher salaries, etc.) and pays for upgrades to the computer equipment as it becomes obsolete. (For a more thorough list of expenses covered by the revolving fund, see our FAQ.)
After approximately six years, each school will have saved enough money to replace its equipment. CoEd customizes the revolving fund to meet each community’s unique needs. All families make a commitment to paying into the fund, and thus they have a vested interest in the project’s success. Since the program began in 2001, six schools have replaced their equipment at least once using their revolving fund.
Once up and running, the projects are managed by the schools, with CoEd acting in a supporting role. CoEd also trains local teachers to instruct, manage, use, and maintain the technology. Teachers demonstrate their computer skills by passing the Internet and Computing Core Certification (IC3) or Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) exams. In this way, the knowledge and expertise involved in running the centers resides in the local communities.
Danilo, the Computer Center teacher at Hacienda Maria, tells us that the training he received from CoEd gave him the chance to help spread computer skills to his peers during a later technology training session sponsored by another organization. “During training, the teacher paused and asked if anyone could help demonstrate how to use the given function,” Danilo recalls. “There were a few CoEd-trained teachers attending, and inevitably, one of us would go up and help the trainer demonstrate the function to the group.” Not only did Danilo gain the knowledge to help his peers, he also knows that he can always count on CoEd for support.
A 2007 independent study of program graduates from a sample of 39 Computer Centers showed that 83% of students use their newly acquired computer skills to further their education in vocational schools or to acquire higher-paying jobs.