On our recent trip to Guatemala, we visited Miguel Asturias Academy in Quetzaltenango. A chance to go behind the scenes at a school is a great way to learn about local culture, what people are teaching their children, what they aspire to, and how kids there interact with each other and with their teachers. I find this school, named after Guatemala’s Nobel laureate, particularly exciting because its leaders seek to improve life for Guatemalan children, not just through literacy, but also by teaching them about leadership, gender equity, and concern for the environment—concepts that aren’t in the typical curriculum in Guatemala, or sometimes even in the U.S. Growing a crop of well educated, critically thinking, socially conscious citizens is about the only way I can think of for Guatemala to move beyond the conflict and corruption that has dominated civic life.
This isn’t a fancy private school for elite children. Asturias students are from a range of backgrounds from poor and indigenous to middle class. It was founded by Jorge Chojolan, who was, himself, a poor indigenous kid. Click here to see a video about Jorge and the school’s philosophy.
One of the latest accomplishments at Asturias is the new library, which still has many needs, particularly good science books in Spanish. Librarians Without Borders (I’ve heard of doctors, but never librarians without borders) has helped them create the library, which will eventually be open to the community. Public libraries—another of the things we take for granted.