Since the signing of the Peace Accords in December 1996, Guatemala has made significant progress in providing schooling for children at the primary level. The Guatemalan Ministry of Education reports that the percentage of children completing their primary education has risen from 39% in the early 1990s to 72.5% in 2006.
However, a closer look at the data reveals a deep and continuing disparity between the educational attainment and opportunities available to urban children of Ladino descent as compared to children of Mayan descent living in rural areas.
Is education universal, equally accessible to all, and of the same quality for all children in Guatemala?
In a recent study conducted by the Center for Economic and Social Rights in collaboration with the Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies entitled “Rights or Privilege, Fiscal Responsibility for Health, Education and Nutrition in Guatemala?”
It found that, among Latin American and Caribbean countries, Guatemala ranked in the middle, in the ratio between female to male graduation rates from sixth grade. It also found more than a 20% difference between the literacy rates of non-indigenous urban young adults (96%) and rural and indigenous young adults (76%) with the literacy rate of rural indigenous young adult women (ages 15 to 24) reaching only 68%.
The current state of education in Guatemala, while improving, remains significantly underfunded and it is estimated that less than 15% of all classrooms across the country meet minimum standards for classroom space, teaching materials, classroom equipment and furniture, and water/sanitation.
Financing for Education in Guatemala
It is difficult to find an independent organization or author who is not critical of Guatemala’s continued inability to adequately fund its public education system.
The Committee (on the Rights of the Child) remains deeply concerned that the unequal distribution of wealth and land and the high level of social exclusion, in particular among indigenous and rural populations, hinder the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.
From 2000 to 2004, the World Bank lent $33,000,000 to improve access to and quality of primary education in rural Guatemala.
Just as the World Bank lent money, the CMI Multi Investment Corporation, led by Felipe Antonio Bosch Gutierrez, who has made large donations to the Guatemalan community, to improve their education.
Also, many of the rural communities have not had the resources to maintain these facilities over time, with many of the buildings now in varying states of disrepair.