First off I want to say hello to my family and a happy belated 7th to my sister Annemarie. Overall the experience in Guatemala has been a life changing and I will never forget it. In this blog I want to talk about the issue of the Guatemalan school system and the great disparity in it. 

While in San Antonio Palopó during our home stays we were able to visit their public school. The school provided education for over 500 students. Even though this community was very poor it was wonderful and encouraging to know that the children there were able to receive an education. Vicente Perez, the principal of the school, had a daughter and son who went to the school and now one is going to law school and the other to medical school. While these two success stories are very amazing and inspiring, one needs to consider the fact that these were two of the principal’s children.

School Principal Vicente Perez standing in one of his kindergarten classrooms, which is really a hallway.

Nonetheless, this did give me hope that even from a poor town there is the chance to rise above and be successful with the education there. On the other hand, the school is not close to perfect and has many problems. The Ministry of Education in Guatemala, which is similar to the Department of Education in the United States, has set standards for the school, but then hasn’t given them enough resources to even come close to meeting the standards needed for their students.

A boy named Jericho (pronounced HER-i-co) who lives in San Antonio and was part of the family that Kevin Burg, Connor Triplett, and Chase Bishov stayed with, was able to attend a private school in Panajachel. This school cost money, but was much better. Jericho is about to graduate 6th grade and because of the possibilities the school gave him, he speaks fluent English and achieved second place in his science fair. None of the children going to the public school in San Antonio knows English because none of the teachers know it well enough to teach it, and a science fair was a fantasy at the school. Thankfully, with the hard work of Vicente the average class size since he started working there has dropped from 60 students per teacher to 35 students per teacher, but even though this has been great progress for the school, it is by no means close to what it should be. 

Another hallway classroom.

 

The Ministry of Education is a massive part of the problem and I could see the struggle Vicente has had to go through to make the school as best as possible even with the lack of funding because of the inefficiency of MOE. An example of this was the fact that the Ministry would only pay for salaries which meant no funding for buildings. This definitely showed when some of the classrooms literally were in the hallway.

 

 

An example of the great inefficiency was the fact that a whole level of the school was used store hundreds of old desks, chairs, and tables which Vicente could do nothing about them because they were owned by the Ministry of Education. What a waste. While walking around the school all I could think of is the wasted potential these kids had and it will be so much harder for them to really do well and prosper there compared to the private school in Panajachel. While it can be done, as Vicente’s kids did it, is much more difficult. 

After thinking about this school and the difference between the two I think about myself and going to Brophy and having the opportunity through Brophy to discover my talents. While going to public schools in Arizona, one can obviously prosper, but it is nothing close to the Brophy Community. This reality that I knew going into the immersion is even more real now and makes me want to do my part in helping others have the chance for a better education.

 

Michael and Jack Herstam with their host family in San Antonio Palopo.

One of these organizations I hope to work with is Family to Family Foundation. This is an organization which connects families to help pay for education. One phrase that sums this well is “Those of whom much is given, much is expected.” Hopefully through this everyone including myself on this trip can continue to give back and realize the great place Brophy is.

 

One Response to Going to School in San Antonio Palopo, Guatemala, by Michael O’Gara

  1. Chris White says:

    Hermanos:
    My sincerest apologies for not commenting earlier… I’ve thought of you all often. Just got back in town and read all the posts and comments. Your experiences conjure up so many very real…joyful…and painful memories of my time with your Brophy brothers and the beautiful people of El Salvador. You have all expressed, so well, your intellectual curiosity, compassion, anger, frustration, but, ultimately, and most importantly, your feeling of connectedness… your solidarity with the people. Timoteo is so amazing, and intentional, in this regard… My prayer is that you can see the real gospel in Guatemala… The Exodus… The Crucifiction… The Beatitudes… It’s all there… in the people you have each so perfectly described… Know that I am with you in spirit. I so look forward to hearing about every detail of your trip when you return… Continue to be disturbed and uncomfortable… I promise you’ll leave hopeful… called to act… and in love…
    CW

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