For this school year that began in January 2019, GHA is proudly providing scholarships for 60 students from the Lago de Atitlan communities of San Pablo, San Pedro, and from the more remote community of Pasajquim. Though education is “public,” participating students must still pay registration and monthly maintenance fees, and buy uniforms, books, and supplies. This seemingly small amount precludes many children from an education, and relegates them to barely-subsistence jobs in agriculture. All those receiving scholarships are living is extreme poverty, most with only one parent, and some with none.
We are proud to have 15 students at university level this year. For these indigenous youths who grew up in extreme poverty, raised in homes where often no Spanish is spoken and parents are illiterate, this is a truly awesome accomplishment. It has taken sacrifice from the entire family, and immense commitment from the students to get to this level. All work weekdays and study on weekends.
An important component of our education program is enrichment studies. We provide classes in Spanish for those students beginning school who hear only T’zutujil in their homes. We provide reinforcement mentoring for students struggling with academics. We require students to attend workshops we organize around topics such as responsibility for the natural environment and diversity. In 2019 we began optional workshops for the mothers of our scholarship students centering on subjects they themselves requested, including nutrition, legal rights, and entrepreneurship.
Below: GHA scholarship children help to clean up Lake Atitlán.
Costs for primary students are around $150 per year, with costs rising with grade level. This year we include three colleges students, whose expenditures will average $1000 for the year. GHA opts not to give full scholarships, expecting the student or family to contribute what it can. Scholarship recipients are required to do community service and to attend workshops to discuss social and cultural issues, as well as the challenges of education. Student’s progress is monitored throughout the year, with mentoring being offered when needed.