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Poverty & Education

The Need in Numbers

A typical Mayan laborer earns less than $4 a day.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

Education in Guatemala was just one more casualty of the 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.

Less than two out of ten children in Guatemala 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's Response

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.