The Need

A 36-year civil that ended in 1996 devastated nearly two generations of Guatemala’s children, leaving many of them orphaned, abandoned and out cast without a sense of purpose or hope, and with no vision of a future. Today, many children continue to live in dangerous urban environments or poor and remote rural villages where there is little opportunity for safe outdoor recreation, play, creativity or activities that foster social development. Without hope or dreams, these children have little motivation to remain in school and, without the ability to imagine a better future, it is nearly impossible for them to escape the cycle of poverty.


Since 1996 some improvement in education has been achieved and government reports indicate that many more schools are built every year but if we were to visit the majority of the schools outside of cities and major towns, we might find that although the building does exist, there are no sanitation facilities, doors, floors, desks, chalkboards, windows or books and, in some cases, there are no teachers because, in rural areas, teachers often go unpaid for months at a time.


Education in Guatemala
*In Guatemalan rural areas, as few as 40% of school children finish 6th grade
*44% of the country’s poorest have no literacy skills.
*On top of that, more children drop out of school after 6th grade in Guatemala than anywhere else in the region.

Source: UNESCO / Child Aid


Guatemala has the highest illiteracy rate in Latin America.  The last five years show progress in school enrollment, but the quality of schooling is deficient and school absenteeism and drop out rates are extremely high.  Five out of 10 students who enter primary school in urban areas drop out of primary school, 8 out of 10 in rural areas.

Source: United Nations report on Children and Poverty in Guatemala, 2004

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Education is one of the main factors that propel people out of poverty, yet indigenous peoples continue to have fewer years of education than non-indigenous ones.  In Guatemala, non-indigenous children have 6 years of schooling versus 3 for indigenous children.

Source:Hall and Patrinos, Finance & Development.  Magazine, International Monetary Fund, 2005

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Nearly 50% of all (Guatemalan) students fail first grade, these children are more likely to fail again and drop out. At all levels of school, the poor, particularly girls and rural indigenous children of both genders, have less access to basic education.

Source:USAID/Guatemala; Education Access, Quality and Equity in Guatemala, Latin American Profiles 1999-2004


Deficiencies in educational quality lead 76% of all rural children who enter first grade to drop out before completing primary school, which ends at 6th grade. This situation is exacerbated by poor health conditions, child malnourishment and child labor, since many poor children must contribute to their family’s income. Almost 50% of all students fail first grade, these children are more likely to fail again and drop out. At all levels of schooling, the poor, particularly girls and rural indigenous children of both genders, have less access to basic education.

Source: USAID/Guatemala; Education Access, Quality and Equity in Guatemala, Latin American Profiles 1999-2004