October is an exciting time of year for our Primary Education Scholarships project because with the end of the school year here in Guatemala comes graduation season! This year, eight of our sponsored students will graduate from primary school, two will graduate from middle school, and another two will graduate from high school. Every graduation at any level is a victory in a region where more than three out of ten adults cannot read or write*, and every of these invaluable milestones is made possible by the consistent support our team provides students throughout the school year. All sponsored students receive the financial assistance they need to pay the costs associated with attending public school in Guatemala, costs that are prohibitively high for many families and can force kids to drop out. Some students, however, need a little extra personalized support. For one sponsored student, this meant getting help navigating miscommunications in the classroom.
Salvador Damian is a sixth grader at Chukmuk Primary School. He will graduate from primary school in just a few short weeks, but his graduation wasn’t always a sure thing. In fact, in May of this year he was set on dropping out of school, an all-too-common reality for many young Guatemalans in the Lake Atitlán region. Salvador had been having some problems in class. Although he asked frequently to be allowed to sit up close to the whiteboard, his teacher refused—some of Salvador’s friends also sat up front and the teacher worried that they would become disruptive if allowed to sit together. The sixth grader said that he felt his teacher did not understand him, and a pattern of miscommunication developed between student and teacher. Eventually Salvador, frustrated, announced that he would not return to school, even though he was just months away from his primary school graduation.
Knowing that educational support comes in all forms, our team sprang into action. They visited Salvador and his family in their home. They listened patiently as the sixth grader refused, again and again, to go back to school. They visited his school, where they spoke with his teacher and even his principal. Weeks passed, but our team did not give up.
Finally, our team discovered that Salvador had been struggling with vision problems for quite some time. He had insisted on sitting close to the board—against his teacher’s wishes—because he was not able to see from his seat in the back row. He felt unheard in his classroom and upset at his resulting academic struggles, and by the time May rolled around he had reached his breaking point.
Once Salvador and his family realized what was going on, he was fitted for glasses, and thanks to the efforts of our team he was able to reconcile with his teacher and jump back into his last year of primary school on the right foot. Now Salvador will not only graduate—he will also continue his studies in middle school come next school year, on the condition that the healthcare portion of his sponsorship include regular check-ups with an eye doctor.
Salvador’s case reflects how sometimes a little bit of patience can solve the trickiest problems—even nearsightedness and miscommunication. Because of our team’s efforts, Salvador will stay in school, and from now on he’ll have the glasses he needs to succeed!
*National Institute of Statistics Guatemala, 2014. https://www.ine.gob.gt/sistema/uploads/2014/02/26/L5pNHMXzxy5FFWmk9NHCrK9x7E5Qqvvy.pdf