Yesterday I had the honor of visiting an amazing group of young women. Delmi, the Las Manos Literacy Assistant, has been teaching a group of teens how to read and do basic math in her family’s house for the past 6 weeks. The girls meet three mornings per week from 8:30am-11am. Many women in the village expressed interest in the group, but the only ones who have been dedicated and consistently attending are four teenage sisters who are sometimes accompanied by their three younger sisters (ages thought to be 9, 11, and 12).
The course is part of a government initiative called ConAlfa, an adult literacy program, so the three younger sisters cannot officially register or receive a diploma through the program because they only accept students over the age of 15 years. The program provides a notebook and a first grade certificate at the completion of the course, but no teacher. A third party is paying Delmi to teach the class for five months and after that there is no plan to continue. The girls have permission from their parents to study (sometimes an issue in the village), but they don’t have the paperwork necessary to register for school, so they have never attended. They also have four brothers, the oldest is the only child out of eleven who has ever attended school. He currently studies in the IGER program on Saturdays.
The girls are extremely proud to finally be studying and wish to continue after the five-month course ends. They have asked us if we could either assist in the paperwork process so they could officially register with one of the existing educational programs in El Hato, or provide the resources for them to continue their studies with Delmi, and of course the answer was yes.
In order to apply for papers, the parents need to find two literate Guatemalans with government IDs to vouch for them by saying that they know the kids are indeed the children of the parents and they were born when they claim they were. It also involves a fee per child. This rather simple task is quite a hurdle if both you and your neighbors are poor and illiterate.