The School of Hope serves students in Jocotenango and the surrounding areas whose families make less than $1 a day. This 4k-8th grade school is supported by the Education for a Future Foundation which also funds scholarships for student to attend private high schools and colleges. Sara, the volunteer coordinator, gave us a tour and offered some insight in the Guatemalan education system. Here are some things we learned:
- In public schools, class sizes range from 50-70 students per class.
- Public schools do not provide supplies or food to the students. Schools are under-resourced and overcrowded.
- Many students in Jocotenango go to school during the day and will go with their parents to Antigua at night to peddle goods in the tourist areas. This often leads to inconsistent attendance.
- Private schools offer a more academically rigorous course load and are usually capped at 20 students per class. Students coming out of private schools have a much better chance at succeeding in high school.
- The high schools in Guatemala are very difficult. Most students from public schools that continue into high school drop out in their first year because of the vast ability gaps between the public and private school students.
- San Carlos is the only public university in Guatemala. If you get in, your tuition is free. Around 50,000 students take the national entrance exam each year and 10,000 get in. You can take the test twice but must wait one year between attempts.
- For most students, San Carlos is their only chance at attending a university because of their economic situation. But even with the free tuition, many students in Jocotenango would be unable to attend San Carlos because the admission doesn’t cover living expenses and the Guatemalan government does not provide student loans.
- There are many private universities that do not require an entrance exam. It is much easier to get into these schools and students can commute to a local campus. Students in Jocotenango could attend a private university in Antigua with the proper support, funding, and academic preparation.
As we process this information, we are trying to find ways to help our students continue their education despite the challenges noted above. We are praying that we will be able to help some of them become first-generation college students. Please pray with us!