Education for a Better Future Mayan youth attend college and teach in their villages
In the mountainous highlands surrounding San Cristóbal de Las Casas, in Chiapas, Mexico, indigenous Mayan communities long excluded from development opportunities are laying the groundwork for a better future. One of the keys to that better future is educational opportunity for their young people.
Now, thanks to special scholarship assistance supported by Seva's Community Self-Development Program (CSD), three Mayan youth are gaining opportunities that few in their community have ever had before. Juan Gomez Ruiz, and two brothers, Patrocinio and Victoriano Herandez Gómez, are the first in their families to attend university and the first to become teachers.
During the week, Juan and Patrocinio work as teachers in a small school for youth and young adults in the villages of the San Pedro Chenalhó region in the Chiapas highlands.
Victoriano works as an accountant for the local coffee-growers co-op, and also teaches classes on community development. On weekends, the three travel to the University Valle de Grijalva in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, where they are earning college degrees so that they can be of further service to their community.
It's all part of a unique learning program developed by one of Seva's partners in Chiapas, AMYRILAC (Acompańamiento a Migrantes y Refugiados Ignacio de Loyola, Asociación Civil — Accompaniment for Migrants and Refugees). The objective is to encourage Mayan students to stay and share their learning in their own communities, rather than migrating away from Chiapas to advance their education.
Education is the Key Without the support of this kind of program, the majority of Mayan students are unlikely to finish high school and very few attend a university. The region is one of the poorest, most marginalized in Chiapas. Over 66% of residents are younger than 30, the average age is 16, and illiteracy rates are high. Education is further complicated because children in the Mayan communities grow up speaking their native Tsotsil language, yet now must learn Spanish to gain access to advanced education and employment opportunities.
Young people looking for educational opportunities often migrate away from these Mayan villages and do not return. That's why AMYRILAC developed a program to support local youth in furthering their own education while encouraging them to stay and help their communities grow by working in local schools. These local community schools provide Mayan youth, especially young women, with the knowledge and skills they need to meet today's challenges.
“The brilliant thing about AMYRILAC's approach is that it's more than just giving a scholarship,” says Roger Maldonado, Seva's CSD Program Manager in Chiapas. “It's important that the kids who go to the university don’t just move away. So AMYRILAC is giving them a way to stay involved in their communities. And as the program grows, we expect to see more young women taking part in the scholarship program.”
Giving Back to the Community “I am studying so that I can serve the people and be an enriching and motivating teacher in Chiapas,” says Juan Gómez Ruiz, who is taking sociology, the philosophy of education, and psychology. "The subjects help me carry out the work I am doing in the education project of San Pedro Chenalhó. The topics are useful for planning activities and for knowing how to strengthen the hearts of the students so that they stay motivated for their studies."
“My objective is to finish my degree as a public accountant in order to benefit our coffee-growing cooperative,” says Victoriano Hernandez Gómez, who has already been appointed substitute accountant for the Producers Union Maya Vinic Co-op. “It is my way of working for the wellbeing of my people.”
Patrocinio Hernandez Gómez says, "I'm happy to have this opportunity to work with my people and to share what I have learned during my studies. It is good to see the students realize that they can pass all obstacles, like fear to participate in assemblies, in order to learn to read and write and to do basic math operations — because these subjects have become a necessity for our daily life."
Juan summed it up by saying, "I want to thank Seva Foundation for having a great and humble heart to support me with the scholarship funds, because without it I can't continue to reach my goal of becoming a teacher for my community."
You can provide educational opportunities for indigenous communities by supporting Seva's Community Self-Development Program with anonline donation.