A successful speaking tour
For Canadians, basic education lasts for at least 11 years and is available to almost the entire population. This fact is so normal that if you asked some young students, they might tell you that they’d prefer it if school was optional. Two weeks ago a special guest speaker from Guatemala reminded us that in other parts of the world, the opportunity to get an education is not guaranteed for all children.
Jorge Chojolán is an internationally recognized educator and speaker who visited Montreal as part of a larger tour of Canada and the United States. He shared the story of how he received an education and the process of creating a school in the primarily indigenous city Xela (pronounced SHAY-la).
He began by introducing Guatemala as a land of contrasts. The Country has produced a noble prize winner for literature, Migel Angel Austurias, but also has the lowest literacy rate in Latin America. It is blessed with good soil and abundant natural resources, but 54% of the population lives in poverty. Almost half of the population has indigenous ancestry, but parents refuse to teach their children native languages because an indigenous language accent is a cause for discrimination.
Amidst this background of societal contrasts, Jorge is working to promote education and tolerance through his non-profit school. The Austurias Academy has a unique funding model: it relies on a combination of donations and grants to subsidize student tuition. This model allows the school to provide an education which is of higher quality education than that offered in the overcrowded public schools, but which is far more affordable than the private schools in the country.
Librarians Without Borders is proud to be part of this remarkable educational experience.
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