Education

In an Area Known for a Lack of School Resources, Guatemalan Students Get Free Tablets

 

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Derik Chumil Saloj, 7, says he enjoys learning new subjects via tablet, thanks to a new program that plans to deliver technology to 28,000 students in Guatemala. Brenda Leticia Saloj Chiyal, GPJ Guatemala
Guatemala

The education system in Guatemala lacks teachers and materials, while student enrollment and performance are spotty at best. But rural classrooms are integrating a new feature: 28,000 state-of-the-art, education-oriented tablets, donated by outside organizations.

CHAQUIJYÁ, GUATEMALA — The education system here is known for its weaknesses.

There are more than 2 million school-age children who are out of school here. Just 50 percent of third-graders meet math and reading standards. And only three-quarters of students complete sixth grade.

Classrooms lack both teachers and materials.

Innovations and interventions are rare.

But today, Ana Solares and Gloria Coc, first-grade teachers at the Central Chaquijyá School, stand in front of their students giving instructions for how to use their new, state-of-the-art tablets.

The tablets, donated by ProFuturo, which provides digital education tools in vulnerable education environments in Africa, Asia and Latin America, are linked to the WeClass platform, which allows teachers access to various assignments for subjects from math to hygiene.

Introducing technology into Guatemala’s rural classrooms has been a challenge for teachers, Coc says.

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Ana Solores, a teacher at the Central Chaquijyá School, says teachers are learning to use the technology alongside the students.

Brenda Leticia Saloj Chiyal, GPJ Guatemala

“The children handle technology more easily than we do,” she says.

Just one year ago, having technology in the classroom would have been unthinkable.

“There were no computers before, and we didn’t know how to use them,” Coc says. “Now, we’ve been learning, and we continue to learn with the children.”

Guatemala’s Strategic Education Plan for 2016-2020 has been criticized for its ambitions to give children with limited resources access to better education, when most schools lack the resources to fulfill the goal. Guatemala spends just 2.4 percent of its national budget on education.

So when ProFuturo announced plans to deliver 28,000 tablets to primary-school students and to train 1,000 teachers in Guatemala, plans were met with excitement.

Funded by the Fundacion Telefónica and the “La Caixa” Banking Foundation, the tablets have already been delivered to 189 schools.

“I see the necessity of implementing new teaching techniques,” says Esteban Toc, director of the Central Chaquijyá School and a former mayor of the Sololá department. “The teachers are getting themselves up to date, in order to master the technology, and in this way replicate what they learn. That way, the world will have competitive children and young people in such a changing world.”

The school in Chaquijyá received 30 tablets, which are available to different grades on a rotating schedule.

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Students Karla González (left), Evelyn Soch (center) and Reyna Solares (right) work on an assignment on a new tablet.

Brenda Leticia Saloj Chiyal, GPJ Guatemala

Students are excited about the new tools, he says, adding that the long-term implications for Guatemala’s future workforce are exciting.

“It is an opportunity to grow as a person and to discover novel abilities, in order to apply them to a future as university students or in the workforce,” Toc says.

Parents, too, say they are pleased that their children are being exposed to technology.

Juana Tautiu, a parent, says the introduction of technology also means that parents need to understand how to regulate it.

“It is a change for our community,” she says. “As parents, we need to guide our children so that technology is a tool and not a vice.”

Above all, students are thrilled to have access to modern tools.

“I like what I see on the tablet,” says Derik Chumil Saloj, 7. “I am learning a lot, because I see images, I hear what they say and I follow instructions. I learn on my own.”

Rishi Khalsa, GPJ, translated this article from Spanish.

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