The Education Support Program was introduced in 1994, and was one of the main social aid programs of INEPAS. This program was created in light of the (still current) serious socio-economic limitations of the Guatemalan educational system, which cannot meet the basic educational needs of the population. Only 55% of children in Guatemala attend primary school of which only 19.5% go on to receive secondary education. Illiteracy in rural areas is still an overwhelming reality. Instead of continuing with their studies, a child of twelve usually begins a life of work, helping in the house or in the fields. Although many families would like their children to have an education, they simply cannot afford it: a child's income from labour is essential to the family's economy.
To give educational support to children, teenagers and adults who were either having problems learning in school or had no access to education whatsoever.
Contents of Program:
The Education Support Program had carried out a variety of different activities and programs including: tutoring classes for children and teenagers with learning difficulties, a night school for teenagers who worked during the day, and the initiation of a self-sustainable rural school in a Maya-K'iché community. Later, this program was divided into two projects:
The Scholarship Project (2001):
In an attempt to reduce the number of teenagers that either dropped out of or did not attend school, INEPAS provided scholarships to selected students. Foreign citizens were invited to sponsor school students that came from families of scarce economical resources in the rural communities of Quetzaltenango. The sponsor´s financial contribution secured a teenager's secondary education or enabled an older student to receive further education.
The role of INEPAS in this project was not limited to distributing sponsor money and maintaining contact between sponsor and student. INEPAS mentored the group of young people, complementing their education with workshops and activities which helped them:
- In their personal development, dealing with themes such as self-esteem. Some of these young people had suffered the abandonment of a father or mother, or had lived with the experience of domestic violence.
- In their social behaviour, dealing with various themes.
- In their studies, with workshops on motivation, spelling, reading, and themes of social, cultural and political interest.
- Once a month, whole-day or whole-afternoon sessions were organized with the young people. These sessions were directed by María Antonieta, who was sometimes accompanied by national or international volunteers.
The Computer Laboratory Project (2002):
The most recent project of the Education Support Program was the implementation of 31 Computer Laboratories, located in 30 rural communities around Quetzaltenango. The installation of the Computer Laboratories was carried out in collaboration with a Non-Governmental Organization based in Oregon, USA, called Compañeros en Solidaridad.
Each IT Lab had 30 to 35 computers, which were located in public rural schools. This program had benefited more than 6000 students.
The Computer Laboratory Project was created with 3 main objectives:
- To facilitate the access to technology and training in the most important aspects of computing by the children and young people of rural areas, with the aim of closing the digital gap.
- To use the laboratories to motivate students to attend school and learn, thus reducing the rates of school absenteeism and desertion.
- To train teachers in technical maintenance of the hardware and provide working knowledge of the software.