September 11, 2016
It’s been a while since my last update on the school we are supporting in the community of El Triunfo in Sololá, Guatemala. Since the spring I’ve visited Guatemala twice including a visit for the anniversary celebration of the school in July and a brief but important visit earlier this month.
The events for the anniversary are always a fun event for me to attend. I’m always struck by the creativity and energy of many of the activities and the efforts of both students and teachers. There was also an evening ceremony with Lucas, a Mayan priest from the community and his family.
Mayan ceremony with Lucas
Other highlights included the willingness of Antonio, the high school director, to lay it all out on the dance floor with his grade 12 students, the dance of the “seniors” by the grade 12 class and the crowning of the senoritas for the next year.
Antonio and the grade 12 class!
Dance of the “seniors”
You can see more pictures from the school here and well as my visit to Asociacion Maya, the women’s weaving cooperative here.
While my July visit was filled with fun and laughter, my September visit had a more serious purpose.
Over the past two years, both the community and I have been preoccupied with the low enrollment in the high school. This year, as you know, we did not have a grade 11 class after not enrolling any students for grade 10 last year. Before the start of this year’s school year, members of the COCODE put in quite a bit of work in promoting the school by going door-to-door in the village, doing promotional work in the neighboring villages and taking advantage of some free publicity on community radio to run promos for the school. Despite their best efforts, the grade ten class this year is currently only four students. Combined with the grade 12 class of 8 students, it makes for a very small school.
During my July visit, I learned a bit more about the enrollment issue from speaking with various community members. Some families have concerns about the curriculum which is “perito contrador” – which offers primarily accounting and business courses and does not provide a pathway to university. There are other families with the resources to send their children to schools in the larger near-by communities which offer a wide-range of courses. There is also a significant amount of immigration to the United States from the area including by boys who could be students in the school.
In addition to the enrollment issue, donations for the entire project have consistently lagged behind the expenses for several years leaving me to cover the gap. This is an unsustainable situation, one that I was willing to willfully ignore as I hoped that we would get more students in the high school.
After meeting with the COCODE last week, we agreed to suspend the high school for the 2017 school year. We’ll consult with the community over the coming months to see if there is enough interest to relaunch the high school in 2018, perhaps with a new curriculum. Next year we will continue with the middle school as the student numbers have remained strong. One possible project, if funding can be secured, is to upgrade the computer lab. Since the school’s inception, we’ve never been able to have enough computers to have a full lab.
In the meantime, we will continue to fund both the high school and middle school for the rest of this year and I’m looking forward to attending the graduation ceremonies for the grade nine and grade twelve classes in November 26.
I hope I can still count on your support for this year as well as for next year. It’s a decision I did not take lightly having thought about it for more than a year. And thank you to the people in Canada and in Guatemala who I sought advice from during this time.
You can donate online through Casa Pueblito or mail in a cheque. (A cheque actually ensures that more of your money goes directly to the school!)
(If you are donating online please follow: under “Donate To This Charity Now”, please select option #2 “El Triunfo School Project.” You may also wish to indicate that your donation is for Ken’s School in the note.)
You can also mail a cheque payable to Casa Pueblito (please note this is a new address).
107A 2238 Dundas St. W
Toronto, ON M6R 3A9
ATTN: El Triunfo School Project
Thanks everyone for your ongoing support.