September 26, 2017

Different Circumstances - Same Result

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This blog was written by Walking Together Learning Leader Roy van Eerden who is working with co-leader Diane Stronks and key Guatemalan educators as part of the Vision for Christ-Centred Education - Guatemala Walking Together project.

Today was all about seeing first hand what is happening in AMG schools. They were three very different schools, but the effectiveness of the AMG program was evident in all three cases.

First, we went to Las Vistas. As the name suggests, the views from the school are amazing (or would be, had the weather been clearer). It is just outside of Guatemala City and requires going through a ravine and high up the next mountain. Most of the families in this school lost their homes in the ravine to hurricane Mitch and had homes rebuilt here.  The last ½ km was a little tense – think high mountain road in the middle of a suburb with cars parked and other trying to squeeze by.

Manuel is the admissions administrator. He reviews all the applications and brings people into the school, based on socio-economic status. Again, I was struck by the disparity with North American Christian schools in which one of the first points of contact is can the parents pay the tuition. At AMG schools it is do they qualify for the assistance level needed to get into the school. The focus really is on the poorest of the poor.

Helen is the principal. She became a teacher in 2006, and principal in 2009. Her desire to make the school a great school is evident in her attention to detail, her work in helping teachers improve their craft, and the fact that Las Vistas is already rated as one of the top five schools in that district. Visiting the classrooms was again the highlight and Nico and Ruth finally had to drag us out as we had other schools to visit.

Katherine has 29 six year olds in her class, but 6 were missing today. I wondered if truancy was an issue and asked if it was typical to have students missing. No, the rain kept them away today but normally they are there because they love to be with their teacher. Their love for her was certainly evident.

Maranata is a pre-primary school, so all the children are ages 3-6. A third level has the block walls for new classrooms standing and the hope is to add primary grades once these classrooms can be finished. All the schools we have visited had active parent associations and parent involvement. At Las Vistas, we heard of parents coming in to talk about their professions, and grandparents telling their stories. In Maranata, this was evident in the freshly painted bathrooms with wonderful murals. It was one of the first places Evelyn, the principal, wanted to show us. It reminded me of one of the Kindergarten rooms back at my school in Abbotsford, also painted by a parent.

Perhaps the most touching moment of the day was meeting Angela. She has been making lunches for children at the school for 27 years. She is now feeding the children of children she fed when they were in school. Dedicated servants like Angela can be found all over the world and it is a blessing when you have the privilege to meet them.

Finally, we went to Santa Maria. Diane was in her element here as the students are all middle to high school in age, so you can go to her blog to find out more about the students. I will say that this school is in Zone 18, one of the poorest and most dangerous zones in Guatemala City. Many of the parents make their living scrounging for items of value in the garbage dump.

While these students are basically learning the basics, as Santa Maria is the first school many of them have attended, the gleam in their eyes and the quality of their questions and answers as we got to know them is a testament to what AMG has been able to accomplish. Three years ago, many of them would not even look an adult in the eye.

Ultimately, what we experienced today was hope personified as children of families with very limited resources are able to receive good quality education and needed social support. And I didn’t even have space to tell you about how the 3-6 year olds at Maranata and their families are learning how to save some of the little money they have.

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