For Guatemala's Children, Hope Shines On
By Carla Matta, HEP+
This blog was also published on Medium.
The look of hope on the face of 10-year-old Ronal Amílcar Romero Rosales, who hails from the municipality of San Juan Ostuncalco, Quetzaltenango, is one of the reasons I continue to work to support the dreams of children for a better quality of life in Guatemala.
In San Juan Ostuncalco, Ronal is very fortunate to be part of the 62 percent of children who have the opportunity to go to school, according to data from the Municipal Education District. In the municipality, an estimated 3,700 young people are out of school and need to acquire basic job skills and job training to expand their opportunities for employment. If the amount of children enrolled in pre-primary and primary education continues to decline, this number will continue to grow. In 2017, the dropout rate at the pre-primary level was 1.28 percent and 6.04 percent at the primary level. In actual numbers, this means that 477 children dropped out in just one year.
In most cases, children in Guatemala drop out of school to earn a living for their families. With limited local job opportunities available, they are often forced to migrate in search of better opportunities and a prosperous future. However, in many cases, this relocation exposes them to various high-risk situations, including becoming victims of physical and sexual violence, scams, human trafficking, and even kidnapping. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Health and Education Policy Plus (HEP+) project, has worked for many years to improve educational indicators in San Juan Ostuncalco and 29 other municipalities of the Guatemalan highlands. In addition, during the 2019 electoral process in Guatemala, HEP+ strengthened the capacities of various civil society networks, including the National Alliance of Organizations of Indigenous Women for Reproductive Health, the Network of Men of Guatemala, and the Network of Young Artists for Social Justice to help implement a citizen action and advocacy strategy aimed at candidates for elected positions, with the goal of contributing to efficient, transparent, and equitable public management.
My work as HEP+’s Field Coordinator for Civil Society allowed me to develop a sensitivity toward and understanding of the problems that my country faces by giving me the opportunity to contribute to the search for solutions to improve the quality of life of people, families, and communities in Guatemala. For Ronal—and so many children like him—playing, studying, and having access to a future full of hope solidifies the work of HEP+ and helps contribute to a brighter future for all children in Guatemala.
Carla Matta, winner of the Health Policy Plus photo contest, is the Field Coordinator for Civil Society for the Health and Education Policy Plus project in Guatemala.