HELPS International believes that education is essential to the future of the developing world. Guatemala, for example, has 26 different indigenous groups, many of whom only speak their native language. The government's goal of integrating these groups into the Spanish culture has been largely unmet, even though education has been the main integrative force. While we agree that integration into Spanish culture is essential to the future of Guatemala, HELPS also believes in preserving indigenous languages and culture.
HELPS History of Education
Two million children in Guatemala out of a total population of 13 million people have never been to school. Since 1983, HELPS instituted an education program with an emphasis on teaching the various native languages found in the indigenous regions as well integrating Spanish into the culture.
Initially, HELPS worked in the towns of Chajul and Cotzal in a region called the Ixil triangle, where the population is primarily composed of Ixil Mayan. Three teachers taught a literacy program to approximately 150 students in Cotzal.
In 1984, the literacy program added the towns of Santa Avelina and Ojo de Agua, with a teacher serving each town. HELPS partnered with a non-governmental organization called the Summer Institute of Linguistics, to implement the organization's literacy program. Designed for the children of the area, nevertheless, these programs saw a major percentage of the adult population of the region learning how to read and write.
During 1985-86, a period of high activity in the literacy program ensued, and, through continued support and leadership from the communities, HELPS added teachers in eight surrounding villages. Achieving its goals, HELPS reduced the programs in 1989 to three towns. However, in the 1990's, the program was again expanded in Chel, Santa Avelina, Cotzal, and Chajul, (Chajul in partnership with CONALFA), in indigenous language literacy.
Today the HELPS Education Program has developed into a system of K through sixth grade education with a continuing commitment to long-term literacy. HELPS built a large two-story school in Santa Avelina that will also serve as the educational headquarters for the Ixil triangle. HELPS will use the Santa Avelina school as a model for expansion of its educational initiatives throughout Guatemala.
Studies have shown that rural indigenous students in Guatemala are able to compete with urban students on a national level, if they have access to a well-designed learning program that incorporates their culture and language.
Essential Components of a Well-Designed Learning Program
1. An early childhood stimulation program from birth through five, that is home-based involving the mothers, with periodic developmental and health assessments
2. Well-trained teachers who are effective in the classroom and who understand the culture of the community
3. Parental involvement in setting goals and ethical standards in the schools, as found in values-based education
4. Dual language literacy in the indigenous and Spanish
languages and computer literacy
5. Basic comprehension of the economic situation
6. Library and internet availability (including teledistance capability for remote communities)
7. English language instruction made available for university-oriented students
8. Art and music integrated into the curriculum
9. Assessment tools for both faculty and students, using multiple approaches to improve teaching and learning
HELPS envisons "Hub" schools that successfully implement a well-designed learning program to serve as teacher learning centers and technology resource centers for surrounding schools. These hub schools function as extended community education resources, and provide a network of improved educational coverage to rural areas within a Department (state) in Guatemala.
The William M. Botnan School in Santa Avelina serves as the HELPS experimental school for training teachers in the most modern teaching techniques who then become in-service teachers for surrounding communities. Their knowledge, coupled with an increase of available technology, will help transform rural education into a dynamic force that gives rural students access to world knowledge without having to leave their communities.
Join the HELPS education team by becoming a Partner in Education (PEP) or by participating in an in-service team. Call 1-800-41-HELPS (800-414-3577) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.