My counterpart is obsessed with entrepreneurship. He’s always thinking of new career paths and courses he can create for the students at the institute to give them better hands-on practice of running their own business for when the graduate. He, along with his wife María and another relative Yobani (I’m not really sure if it’s a brother or nephew) are taking classes at the Universidad de San Carlos, Nebaj. The University of San Carlos has branches all over Guatemala, and in Nebaj, a 40 minute car ride away, they attend classes from 8am-3pm every Sunday for three years (just about every Sunday that is). I’m not exactly sure what their degrees will be in, but it seems like in Guatemala if you just have a degree period you are well above the rest. The title “licensiado(a)” is like the title “Dr.” but for one with a BA or BS and it comes with a lot of respect. When I was introduced to my town I was presented as “la Licensiada Katerina” and whenever I tell people that I’m not in school right now, that I’ve already gotten my degree, I feel like they look at me with different eyes. School is not a huge thing here in Guatemala. Here’s how it works:
Primario – 6 years of school, you can start at age 5 or 6 or anytime after that. This means that there are students in primario between 5 and 15 years of age. This is supposedly required for all youngsters in Guatemala, however, many children have to work to help their families and many often don’t finish or even begin primario. The government pays the salaries of the teachers in primario because 1: the teachers don’t need as complex a credential to teach primario therefore all are legitimately certified and so the school is equally certified. 2: primario is required by the state so the state has a responsibility to take care of it. In our school we have 145 +/- students in primario, and all of these students come from our town.
Basico – 3 years of school, which you begin after you finish primario. There are students in basico from 10-18 years of age. This is not required in the country of Guatemala, and for this reason many students never begin basico. Also, the government is not paying the salaries of the basico teachers because they are actually teaching illegally. The rule is you have to have a “diversificado” certificate to teach primario and a licenciada to teach basico. Nearly none of our teachers have their BA yet so the government won’t recognize the basico section as legitimate. In our school we have about 60 students in basico, only half of which come from our town. The rest come from afar and they are housed and fed in dorms at the institute.
Diversificado: Magisterio – 3 years of school which you begin after completing basico. This degree will allow you to teach at the primario level. There are other types of diversificado degrees; the one that my counterpart wants to start is a degree in “ecoagronomía”, eco-agriculture, which I’m really excited about. It combines everything I’m interested in and have experience in. I can provide the eco-part, he provides the business-part, and the agriculture part comes from….well, I guess we’ll figure that out. We have about 30 students in the Magisterio program, about 20 of which come from afar and stay at the institute and 10 or so come from this town.
These are the programs we offer at the institute, and my counterpart wants to add more. In one of the courses he is taking at the University they had a project to think about, research, and present a career path they were interested in. He chose “ecoagronomía” as a path that we could make available to the students after finishing their studies here at the institute. We are both thinking very positively about this because we already have so many of the resources available; however it’s going to be a lot of paperwork, work, and time before it can actually get started. One of the big reasons I think this is a good idea for the community, students, and myself is that it combines needs with wants, health, interests, and sustainability. Agriculture is the way of life for most Guatemalans, and especially those that live in rural villages like they do here. But, as I described in my entry about my science charla, agriculture here is monoculture which is not healthy for the soils and is not useful in the long run for the people who work the land. Also, all the children here learn how to work the field from their parents, but none learn how to best manage a business if they are going to end up selling any of their product. They are not taught to project long-term goals, form plans, do cost-benefit analyses, or really think at all. They just plant the same crops their ancestors planted because that’s all they know how to do. I think training and a career path in sustainable agriculture is perfect, and it’s something I’d love to learn more about. Luckily, in Guatemala one doesn’t really have to know anything about the subject they’re teaching – they just have to know how to do research. I may find out in another 6 months that I’ll be teaching various courses in agriculture.