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Now What?

What does a smart teen do when she finishes school here?

What does a smart teen do when she finishes school here?

I am not a local and I am not a teenager. I love it here and I see a lot of happy people including the locals. It took a conversation with a smart 16 year old for me to start thinking about this issue. Now that I have, I would like to think about what we could do to address it.

First, let me state the problem. Kids finish their basic education at 16. Some will be able to go off to a university somewhere, many will not. There is no local university so your opportunities are really limited by what your family can afford. Because of the tourism and resident Gringos here the local population is doing a lot better than in many other areas of Guatemala. But, in general, that doesn’t translate to teenagers being able to go away to college.

That leaves them with some less than exciting options:

  • Go to one of the trade schools and learn how to work in an office
  • Get married (all too young) to someone who can support you
  • Do what your mother did which usually means working as a maid, maybe a waitress or selling things to tourists

That will probably be good enough for some but what about those who have plans/a vision. It is likely that their parents will tell them that’s a nice dream but it is not possible. They will see their peers with a family who can afford it go off to college somewhere. Those that remain will repeat the poor local path of their parents. Worse yet, their peers and parents will see that the idea of education and a future really was no more than a dream.

I don’t have a proposed solution. This post is really about me realizing something that I just would not have seen without the help of a local 16 year old. I do think we owe it to the community to do something. For many of us, this area has been an amazing place to live. What can we do to return the favor?

3 comments to Now What?

  • Carlos Humano

    This may sound (and BE) a rather English-centric answer, but it is an answer nonetheless. Since I work in the University System, I know the system and the trends. Trending now are “FREE ONLINE CLASSES”. This is because so many students get out of a four year liberal arts college with upwards of $75k of debt. Clearly this is not sustainable, so many Universities, like ASU in Tempe, Az, are starting free classes online. I am not yet aware of any free online courses with Spanish, let alone Mayan language teachers, but things are growing quickly in this vein. I am not sure of the funding model, and whether the colleges require some attendance locally to allow the student to graduate. I assume each university has their own system to fund these classes. At the very least, a “schoolroom” of computers to allow these kids to access online classes in Pana would seem to be in order. I know you do this on an as-needed basis for local kids in your home at times. There would have to be some Spanish classes out there.

    Now if this could be mated with an area where the kids (who are very dextrous) could be employed to do anything from rewinding motor coils to assembling PCBs…. and an area to socialize, well, in the US we would have to corporatize this and capture revenue off it! It’s too bad that hand-made tapestry is not in more demand these days, because the Maya can sure amaze there!


  • admin

    Good suggestion. My only concern would be that “socialization” is also needed. That’s what being on a university campus offers that you don’t get with on-line education. But, I like the suggestion and maybe the social aspect can be addressed separately.

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