Guatemala is a beautiful country and few superlatives can describe the grandeur of the landscape. Within this small country are over 30 volcanoes looming all around; one of the most beautiful lakes in the world -Lake Atitlan; primary rain forests; lush pine-clad hills; and tropical areas replete with mangrove swamps, banana plantations and coconut palms. Hidden behind this beauty are some difficult problems. One is the education of the children of the rural poor. The majority of these children are Maya Indian whose ancestors once ruled this beautiful land.
Literacy among the rural poor of Guatemala is among the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. It is estimated that less than 25% of the Mayan men and 10% of the Mayan women who live in the highlands of Guatemala around Zacualpa are literate. Although Guatemalan education is “free and compulsory” through the 6th grade, few of the children in this area complete their primary education. For those motivated few who do, even fewer go on to junior high school (Basico) because they cannot afford it. Rare among the students going to Basico are the Maya girls. We believe these children represent the hope and future of the indigenous people of Guatemala.