Although more than half of the population of Guatemala are ethnically Mayan, the vast majority of Mayan-Guatemalans lack basic literacy skills. In rural Guatemala, home to most of the indigenous population, only 58% of Mayan males and only 35% of Mayan females can read or write – as opposed to a literacy rate of 80% among the general population. This widespread deficiency in fundamental skills means that Mayan-Guatemalans struggle to participate in the economy.
In the pursuit of their livelihoods, Mayan-Guatemalans face further obstacles due to the country’s unequal economic structure: About 80% of Mayan-Guatemalans live under the poverty line, compared to 54% of the general population. In the rural areas of Guatemala, where agriculture supplies most of the jobs and income, a small non-indigenous elite controls most of the land; the broad population labours over plots too small to meet their owners’ needs. As a result of undereducation and economic exclusion, many Mayan-Guatemalans are compelled to seek work abroad - draining the communities they leave behind of the ability to lift themselves up.
These interrelated problems call for an ambitious, multidimensional solution. Thanks to DESGUA, an NGO founded by returned Mayan emigrants, such a solution exists: it is called the “School for Community Organizers.”
The inspiring ambition of the “School for Community Organizers” and the needs of the community that it serves were reason enough for the ICEF Education Fund to extend support. But what drew our special attention is the way in which returned migrants contribute to the project: through their efforts, they provide a practical, living example of the beneficial impact that global experience can have on local communities. To recognise this enlightening example, the Education Fund has decided to provide $500 for one semester of all-expenses paid classes for 4 Mayan Youth at the School of Community Organizers. We encourage our community to add their support to this important and innovative project.
For more information on the ICEF Education Fund or any of the projects ICEF supports, contact Korinne Algie or Will Ohm at communications@