Archive for the 'From Abroad' Category

Access to Education in Peru

While the academic semester and the calendar year wind down, we are looking back at 2017 and reflecting on lessons learned. Our first faculty-led study abroad trip left Milwaukee for Peru last summer. Students learned lessons about education in Peru, and they have brought those ideas back to their time in the classroom both as students and pre-service teachers. Amy Krzoska, currently a senior in the College of Education, saw similarities among the differences in schools across Peru and Wisconsin.


We, as teachers, need to find that spark for children to want to make a change and provide all children with the opportunity for quality education, no matter their race, socioeconomic status, or country of origin.

By Amy Krzoska

During my time in Peru, my eyes have been opened to the wide range of schools that students have access to. We began in a wealthy school in Peru where it costs thousands of dollars just to apply. We then traveled to a school in Cusco that had tarp roofs because they are not getting enough funding from the government to provide students with adequate learning facilities. Even within Lima there was a major gap between the access to resources and quality education that students at Colegio Roosevelt had and students in El Augustino had. What really struck me and made me question how students gain access to education was in Cusco when we were given a presentation at the Fe Y Alegria school. The woman who gave the presentation said that many of the students at schools in rural areas have to walk at least 2 hours to get to school each day. Once they get to school, they then have classrooms that are lacking in resources and are not ideal for their learning. On the other hand, at Colegio Roosevelt, students have filtered water on their campus, they get bussed to school, and have access to all the technology and resources that they possibly can. While the students seem to be taking advantage of these resources in their classroom, I am still amazed at the gap there is between the access that students have to education.

It is crazy to think that these same issues of access to education are not just happening in Peru, however, that they are happening right here in the United States, in Milwaukee for that matter. In the United States, the issue with access to education has to do a lot with inequitable funding systems. According to a Department of Education study, “45 percent of high-poverty schools received less state and local funding than was typical for other schools in their district.” The problem with this is that these schools are being run by tax dollars, and in these impoverished areas there is not much money being poured into the schools where they need it the most. With less funding, students who need resources to succeed, dedicated and well-prepared teachers are not receiving those things. Instead, they are provided with teachers who are not strong in their field or who do not challenge the students in the classroom.

There is also an achievement gap that exists in schools today between minority students and their white counterparts. According to US News, minority counterparts have a different starting line from their white counterparts. Many times, minority parents have attained less education than their counterparts, which in turn results in lower expectations for the students. If students have lower expectations and fewer opportunities to learn and read outside of school, then they are starting behind their counterparts and it continues on into their schooling.

According to Boundless, “In the United States, and in most countries, people with more education tend to enjoy higher economic status, power, prestige, and levels of income.” When thinking about higher education or education beyond high school in the United States, this statement stood out to me. In this day and age, it is almost necessary to have a higher education in order to get a high paying job. Often times, a bachelor’s degree is not good enough and people have to go back to school to maintain a job. The problem with this is that college education is ridiculously expensive. Many students have to take out loans that they have to pay back over many years. While they are paying back these loans for so many years, they are then hindering their ability to save up for their children and to send their children to school. Then their children have to go through the same cycle that they do. While college education should be available and affordable to all people, I believe that it is necessary for students in K-8th grade to have adequate resources, qualified teachers and a curriculum that challenges the students no matter their background.

Where I saw students trying to close the achievement gap and push for change was during our visits to La Inmaculada and Colegio Roosevelt. While these were the privileged schools that we saw in Lima, they seemed to be doing a lot of work with the less fortunate communities. For example, at La Inmaculada, which sits in the middle of the wall of shame, the students go over to the less fortunate side and work in a school there that they have created. They also work with the casitas program in El Augustino to form relationships with the students. At Colegio Roosevelt, the students also participated in service where they would work on forming relationships with the students they were working with rather than just going in and helping them and leaving. One of the fifth graders in my class told me how she started a library for kids in the jungle during her service time. She said that she ran a book drive and brought them all to the jungle to provide the kids with books to read and look at. These small steps toward improving access to educational resources can go a long way!

Because there are so many similarities between the United States and Peru in regard to educational access, I wonder why we haven’t been able to find a solution to provide all students with the education that they need and deserve. I think if we start early with children engaging in Social Justice Education Projects that Romero talks about, we can begin to make a change. We, as teachers, need to find that spark for children to want to make a change and provide all children with the opportunity for quality education, no matter their race, socioeconomic status, or country of origin.

Hope in Education

 Last summer, Carrie Sikich participated in the College of Education’s first faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. While the weather here in Milwaukee is different than it was last June in Peru, the lessons learned still apply. As 2017 is coming to a close, we’re taking a look back at this year’s adventures.


By Carrie Sikich

On one of our final days in Cusco, we visited a public school in the area. At the school, it was explained to us that a huge school priority is to incite cultural pride in the students. Many of the students are ashamed of their indigenous ancestry because it means discrimination against them for the rest of their lives. We were told that, no matter how educated these students become or how many languages they learn, they will always be more discriminated against than their white counterparts.  This statement struck a chord in me, as it did with the other people in my group, I believe. It struck me because of 1) the seemingly final nature of it and 2) the direct parallels with discrimination against minority students in the United States.

Teachers need to provide a critical hope that helps students to flourish, even in the worst of circumstances.

Later on in seminar, we spoke about what we had heard at the school. It was brought up that, after visiting the school, it became apparent that teachers of students who will always be discriminated against need to keep their expectations for those students’ futures real. What I brought up in response, but had a hard time putting into the right words, is that, although realistic expectations are important, this mentality often times leads teachers to become a part of the system that is oppressing the students for whom they fight so hard. I still didn’t know exactly what I was trying to say in that moment, until I read the final readings for this class. The Duncan-Andrade article, “Hope Required When Growing Roses in Concrete,” set off a lightbulb in my head. Duncan-Andrade put into words exactly what I was trying to say and exactly how I felt after leaving that school in Cusco. He talks about multiple kinds of hope in education; what I meant to say that day in Cusco is that, as educators, it is imperative that we empower our students with the right kind of hope: a hope that is realistic yet helps them to rise above and dismantle the oppressive system, not a hope that helps us become a part of that system.

IMG_0503 (1)Duncan-Andrade brings up three types of detrimental hopes: “hokey hope, mythical hope, and hope deferred.” “Hokey hope” is the kind hope that teachers give their students when they present them with the “bootstrap theory.” This theory is that anyone can get ahead if they work hard enough, and it completely ignores political and socioeconomic systems that oppress minorities. “Mythical hope” is the post-Obama administration, racism-is-dead, philosophy that once again undermines the struggles and oppression that people deal with every day. The final hope, “hope deferred,” I believe is the most common from what I have seen amongst teachers. It’s a belief that the system is unjust but that it is way too far out of teachers’ control to help students who are oppressed by this system. In my own understanding, and from what I saw in Cusco, when teachers at the school were talking about keeping their expectations real, they meant avoiding filling students’ heads with these kinds of hope. Hokey hope and mythical hope completely undermine what students who are discriminated against and whose families are discriminated against are going through. Teachers who teach these kinds of hopes ignore the reality of their students’ circumstances, and therefore provide false hope.

IMG_0563 (1)I think the error that many people in the field of education make is that, in order to avoid filling students with these kinds of false hope, they don’t include hope in the classroom environment at all. Duncan-Andrade provided me with a term for the kind of hope we should keep in our classrooms: critical hope. As he puts it, critical hope “demands a committed and active struggle against the evidence in order to change the deadly tides of wealth inequality, group xenophobia, and personal despair.” It is providing students with tools to act upon injustice, not to ignore reality. It is what I like to think of as an active hope, not a dreamy hope. I saw a lot of this kind of hope promoted in the schools we saw in Peru. We saw so many schools that were dedicated to teaching their students about their own unalienable human rights. In the Andes in particular, we saw schools that were attempting to close the gender gap in education and promote higher education for all. The school in Cusco wanted to fill their students with cultural pride so that instead of leaving, they grew up to make their own community a better place. This, I believe, is critical hope. It is hope for a better future someday, but it also the acknowledgement that making a better future someday begins today with solid action.

So going back to that day in seminar, here is what I would have said: yes, it is important to keep our expectations for our students and their circumstances real. We cannot fill them with hokey hope or hope that the discrimination against them will magically disappear once they graduate. However, if we as educators give up on our students’ futures, we are oppressing them as much the rest of the world is. We still need to fill them with hope, a hope that empowers them and enables us to stand with them in solidarity. Teachers need to provide a critical hope that helps students to flourish, even in the worst of circumstances. Duncan-Andrade talks about the pain that students feel and about not ignoring it, but acknowledging it as necessary to grow and to change the world as it is today. This what I saw in Peru and what I hope to take with me to Milwaukee, a place where so many students are told that they will not succeed by the very people whose job it is to help them. I wish to bring critical hope to my classroom so that my students are proud of who they are and know that they can make a concrete change for the better.

Flashback to Peru

IMG_4375Last summer, Sara Douvalakis and six other College of Education students participated in the College’s first faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. Led by Drs. Melissa Gibson and Jeff LaBelle, S.J., the students wrote about their experience. For this #ThrowbackThursday, we aren’t going too far back in time– just to May 2017!
My name is Sara and I am a senior at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I am originally from a suburb of Chicago, and in the fall I will be a senior in the College of Ed with a double major in Psychology and Elementary Education. My hobbies include cooking, online shopping, grabbing coffee with friends, and of course eating!

I am traveling to Peru as part of a first time study abroad program  for education majors. This is the first time that the College of Education at MU has offered a study abroad program. While in Peru, I will be taking two courses for a total of 6 credits; the courses focus on Critical Issues in Education and Philosophy of Education. The courses will examine the philosophical underpinnings of various educational approaches in the US and Peru, as well as the key issues, policies, and practices that are part of global debate about what constitutes a high quality and equitable education.

Day 1:
After two long flights from Chicago to Panama City and then to Lima Peru, we finally made it. Although my legs felt like Jell-O from sitting for almost nine hours in the plane, all of my luggage arrived and I am forever grateful for that. Phew! After weaving through late night Peruvian traffic, we arrived at our host family’s home. The home belongs to a family of four; MariLuz, her husband, Jose (our tour guide) and his sister Carla, who is currently in Columbia.

In the morning we were served fresh rolls and jelly for breakfast. Once our tummies were full, we headed out for our first of many walking tours. Our host brother, Jose, took us through the neighborhoods to the Jesuit University that is hosting us. We spent the day meeting locals, students, and other education students at Universidad Antonio Ruiz De Montoya (UARM). We walked around the beautiful outdoor campus, which was bustling with students from all over Peru.

During some presentations shown to us by administrators from UARM, we listened to a panel of students and professors who introduced us to some of the issues in education. The thing that most caught my attention was the fact that education is very centralized in Lima. Many people in the country do not have access to education like we do in the United States. Many of the people in the jungle and in the mountains are not able to travel hours a day for access to education. During the panel, there was a student who received the Beca (scholarship) 18, which is for students in very high poverty areas, and it provides them the opportunity to go to college on a full ride. This particular student was from the mountains of Peru without the opportunity to go to college; however, with this scholarship she is able to attend school for four years for absolutely no cost. While she was speaking it was clear that she had come great lengths to travel to the city of Lima and attend college in her non-native language. Stories like this are what motivate and excite me to be a teacher.

Once the presentations were over, Jose picked us back up at UARM, and we were off to another tour. This time he led us through the neighborhood/district, which we are staying in called Jesus Maria. Lima is split into districts and neighborhoods each with historical names. The streets are lined with panaderías and cevicherías. As well as shoe stores, hair dressers and nail salons (so many nail salons). We then made our way to the plaza of Jesus Maria where locals gather around in the town square. After a quick stop for ice cream, we made our way back to the house where we were served a traditional Peruvian dinner of garlic rice and meat stew with potatoes.

Overall today was a whirlwind. I quickly learned that my Spanish is nowhere near where I thought it was and that winter in Peru is actually nicer than most days in Milwaukee. It is past 10 pm here and tomorrow breakfast is being served at 6 am…. yikes!

Day 2:
Day two began with our alarm going off at 5:30 am (thank goodness for Peruvian coffee). After a sit down breakfast of freshly blended jugo de papaya y piña and pan we were off to MLK Socio Deportivo School to play futból with local children who live in the district of EL Agustino. This is one of the 49 districts of Lima; it was filled with abundant markets and hustle and bustle at every corner. MLK is a program founded by ex-gang members who are trying to enrich the community and provide opportunities for children growing up in this district. Although this is one of the poorer districts, it was my favorite location so far. Right away, I noticed friendly locals welcoming us, and beautifully colored homes lining the streets. Wild dogs and cats joined us on our walks through the neighborhoods, and even on the futból field.


The children of el Agustino made us feel welcome right away and were so curious about different English words and toys that we have in America. The boys were fascinated with my light eyes and blonde hair, since many Peruvians have darker hair and eyes. We were split into soccer teams and played short scrimmages against each other. I even scored a goal! Through this activity the children are taught sportsmanship, respect, and conflict/resolution. MLK Socio Deportivo School is working with the community to bring families and children together in a positive way.

IMG_4351Now for the best part of the day…lunch! The lunch we were served today was a lunch for the gods, no joke. We had fresh ceviche (which I wanted to take home in my backpack), fried fish, rice with seafood and different corn salads. El Agustino is like no place I have ever been, and I was absolutely fascinated with all of the sights before me. I could have walked up and down those streets forever.

After a long and nauseating car ride in Peruvian traffic, we went back to the host university for our first official seminar. Here we talked about our readings, reflected on our first impressions, and talked about the big ideas for our courses (don’t forget I am here for school after all). And now here I am, in the living room of my homestay writing my first blog ever with my six amigas. Soon dinner will be served to us by MariLuz, and we will finish up our very first blog posts for all the world to enjoy (or mostly my mom). I am so blessed to be here and have loved every minute; although my body and brain are exhausted, I cannot wait to wake up the next morning and have a new set of incredible experiences.


Today’s lessons:

  • “Children are seeds, who have the potential to grow into beautiful flowers and teachers are the sunlight that can get them there” –Rodrigo from the UARM Student panel
  • Do NOT flush toilet paper. It must be thrown into the trash…yeah, it is an adjustment.
  • Winter in Peru is interesting. Wear layers because one minute you are sweating and another minute you are “freezing.”

Home Safe and Sound… But Changed

use 3The students from our first-ever, COED-led study abroad trip to Peru have returned! After a month in Peru, all seven students have written extensively on their experiences as part of the course. However, you’ll find that their adventures outside of the classroom were just as educational.


Read on to learn more about Claire, Addy, Sara, Amy, Liz, Amy, and Carrie have learned in their own words!

use 1.jpg

Value Friendship

maureen cummings blog picBy Maureen Cummings – We stood, fifty-seven strong, in the rays of what photographers refer to as golden hour in the quiet aftermath of a storm that left our study group to be the only visitors at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece, a place where thinkers like Socrates used to share their contemplations.

One of particular interest to me was an aphorism shared by our guide, “Value friendship.”

We sat, fifty-seven strong, that same evening in a restaurant resting on a hilltop in a room that was bright red, but dimly lit. It had tables and chairs and couches and candles. It had a wheel of local goat cheese for each person paired with wine that seemed endless.

While dinner carried on and new dishes appeared every ten minutes we talked for hours, each of the fifty-seven falling into one of about six tables that filled the entire venue. At our table conversations bounced from our favorite books to movies to the time Angelo sent himself to the principal’s office in first grade. We covered siblings and college involvement, and most who know me have already rightfully assumed I brought up the Christmas letter of 2007. We discussed majors and the suddenly all too real question of what each of us wants to do with our degree of that major.

At my turn, I spoke extensively of my excitement towards education and my love of middle school only in response to the table’s mutual cringe as each person considered what a creature he or she had been in that stage of life. I cracked my usual jokes of how middle school was my self-proclaimed peak, despite my 12- minute mile time and inability to make a fairly no-cut drama production, and how I just had to return to it.

While the joke was its usual hit being that self-deprecation nine times out ten kills, I then took a more serious take on explaining my excitement for the future. This began with a reflective acknowledgement of what I had been taught in this stage of my life.

In middle school I learned a lot. I learned about democracy and polynomials. I learned that it was weird to have swung a deal with the track and field coach so that I didn’t have run and could just throw the shot put. I soon after learned it was okay to not be involved in everything, which led to my immediate retirement from track and field.

I learned to be insecure and to resent the three to four inches I stood over the average boy my age. I later learned I didn’t need to be the prettiest one or even one of the prettier ones. After my braces were finally off, I also learned I wasn’t going to be one of the prettiest ones.

(I learned to make jokes instead, so no pity needed there.)

In English class, I learned I loved the underground language of literature that went beyond the surface-level story lines. I learned to relate to and fall in love with characters in books, a consequence of this being the afternoon I spent sitting in my room crying when characters’ dogs died. I learned how exciting the 20 new words introduced on Tuesday vocabulary days could be for my writing.

For the most part, I learned I loved school, which I am so obviously grateful for; however, of all things middle school taught me, I am most grateful for how these years showed me how to have and how to be a friend.

In middle school, I learned how to hold someone’s hand when her grandparent passed away. I learned how to help someone study to make the test less stressful. In the course of these years, I learned how to have expectations for how I wanted to be treated, and when these expectations weren’t met I learned how to forgive. I also learned that that was easier said than done.

These were new lessons because for the first time they were led by my own understanding of what I wanted friendship to look like in my life, more so than in my younger years when every decision was monitored and behavior required more reinforcement.

I grew to understand the importance of calling to see how someone’s day was and while doing so I learned how to listen– for hours.

I realized non-negotiable truths about the expectations I would have for myself in regards to being a friend. I saw how my closest friends loved me, and I promised myself I’d do the same back to them, for however long they would have me.

I learned that I would fail to uphold these all the time, so I also had to learn how to ask for forgiveness.

I would never deny that middle school was awkward. One year I accidentally wore my shirt backwards on picture day. In preparation for that very same picture day, I had my orthodontist switch out the rubber bands in my braces so that they would color coordinate to the outfit I had chosen, so it wasn’t even a lack of effort. I actually tried really hard.

All joking aside, I hoped to explain to the table, that this is the part of middle school that passes us.  We grow out of it or, for some of us, we learn to embrace it. It’s those other moments that mattered. In grades six, seven, and eight the groundwork was being set for the first time for the type of person I wanted to intentionally choose to become. This was all a result of role models I was presented with and the lessons I observed based on the exposure I was given inside and outside the classroom.

Middle school is immature and loud. Middle school can be unkind and is undoubtedly filled with hormones, but middle school is also an opportunity often overlooked as we try to repress the darkness of some of our own memories.

So as I decompressed to the five others at my table this long list of reasons why teaching middle school English feels like my calling, I realize it’s much simpler than I’ve made it.

Earlier in the day when the six of us were part of the of fifty-seven standing strong, we were told the truth Socrates shared: value friendship.

In my few years into young adulthood I have come to know that there is nothing I appreciate more than the kind and selfless friends I am so fortunate to be surrounded and supported by. I have also come to know valuing friendship goes beyond cherishing people, but consists of respecting what it means to be a friend to someone else, which is something I began to learn in middle school.

Rather than the small speech I presented my table, I should have simply explained that I would love a job where I could talk about characters, words, and writing, but I would live for a career where I might be even a small part in setting someone’s foundation for how he or she plans to spend a lifetime valuing friendship. 

There’s a Rock in My Shoe

Rock in your shoe pictureBy Maureen Cummings – Don’t walk with a rock in your shoe.

A message to remember for college freshman, middle schoolers, first year teachers, my best friends, my brothers, my future students, my classmates, my professors, and for myself.

Allow me to set up a backdrop for this advice.

I recently have taken residence in the quiet, hilly and foreign neighborhood of Baulduina in Rome. I’m enrolled in Italian I because prior to coming here my only vocabulary word was Ciao. To think living in a new city that speaks an unfamiliar language — planning trips, budgeting money that somehow seems to be exponentially more limited each day (Sidebar: Sometimes it’s ok to dip into the school supply funds to support your gelato needs.), memorizing new public transportation routes, existing without constant Internet connection, and leaving the comforts of home life — without learning the language is to completely ignore the social context of the experience.

Making friends has always felt natural to me. This may be one of the few positive consequences of a loud personality. Not having friends has never felt natural to me. I’ve done this once before when I started college in a new city knowing no one. There are the positives and there are the negatives to this sort of aloneness. To see one’s self outside the context of a friendship or family and to just exist as an individual made up of whoever those people helped you become is incredibly eye opening. It has shown me more than once what type of people I choose to surround myself with and what kind of person I choose to display myself as.

Within my first few days in Rome I had found a group of girls that I decided to test the waters with. Experiencing people for the first time for me sometimes feels like a, “Do they get it?” test. I note what people laugh at and if our humors can align. I see the pace they walk at to confirm we can move with a purpose and minimize downtime when we have but 110 days to experience the eternal city. The list goes on and on, but as these new people are checking boxes on my own list, I know there are boxes my personality traits must also be checking for them.

On the second day of this group’s togetherness, this being the first time we dare to acknowledge that we are going to hang out again together and that all parties have agreed that enough boxes were checked to make this to day two, we walked to the local grocery store. As we’re walking, I begin hitting topics about what home life looks for different people, who also has two older brothers, majors, potential career ideas, and everything else that is usually answered followed by a smile and nod to fill the empty space before someone else can think of a new question.

Within moments of the uphill hike, a small and seemingly insignificant pebble gets kicked into my shoe, obviously noticed by no one but myself. Let me remind you these people walk with a gusto that I can typically appreciate when my shoe is rock- free. As we are booking it to the store and holding polite conversation the rock begins to take over my every thought as it is piercingly sharper every time I step down on my right foot. I keep walking so as not to interrupt the flow of conversation. Information is being exchanged and occasionally a good joke is being thrown down, but in the most dramatic way my mind can’t escape the sharp little rock.

As we progress on the journey everyone is adding their two cents and getting their boxes checked while I draw up scenarios of what would happen if I stopped to remove the stone, or if I should tell everyone to stop for a second, or if I should power through. I removed myself from conversation and became quiet. I’m not quiet.

I opted to stop. I let the group move forward and I removed the rock because now that I am out of the social comfort and context of home I am realizing who I want to be on my own rather than relative to anyone else. I see that I don’t want to be the type person who walks quietly with a rock in my shoe.

The rock is of complete insignificance and invisibility to everyone else, but for me it is there. The longer I walked with it, the more present it became.

Don’t walk with a rock in your shoe.

We all have rocks in our shoes at some point. When I was a freshman and realized I picked a school that couldn’t give me what I thought I wanted from my collegiate experience– that was a rock in my shoe. I had to weigh my options: Do I walk with my rock? Do I wait it out to see if the rock becomes less painful or my foot becomes numb to it? Do I ask someone to stop with me so I can handle my rock? Do I let the group continue moving forward and I’ll catch up when I catch up?

Challenges and rocks that seem insignificant can change the way we experience a conversation, our schooling, and our relationships. It is not impossible to ignore or power through them, but we should weigh the option of addressing them. This may be even more of the challenge.

To college freshman, middle schoolers, first year teachers, my best friends, my brothers, my future students, my classmates, my professors, and to myself: Know that there is more than one way to move forward. Know that it is okay to step back. Know that the world will not move on without you if you take the time to address the challenges that others may not see in your life.

As a new school year begins, please, don’t walk with a rock in your shoe.

What We Take For Granted

Waiting for a Becca (2)By Laura Sumner Coon – Afternoon heat baked the concrete shell that posed as a gathering place for the little town of Oliveros, Guatemala. Dust swirled at the feet of more than 100 students and their parents who crowded the doorway of Nari’s home, which also serves as the local watering hole.

Parents patiently waited, babies squirming in their arms. Students nervously chattered with their friends, trying to hide their anxiety as their report cards and applications flapped in the occasional breeze.

This is an annual event, when the Americans come to decide on the “becas” for the new school year, which typically starts in January. But this year was exceptional. The hope for a scholarship to junior high or high school more than doubled this year, and the wait was long.

In Oliveros, a small agricultural village in Santa Rosa, students attend public school until Grade 6. But if they wish to continue school to junior high or high school, most need assistance. They have no transportation to Chiquimulilla, where the upper-grade schools are located nearly a half-hour drive from their homes. They also have no money for books or uniforms.

Jeannine Desautels of Madison discovered this fact about eight years ago on her first medical mission to the area with Rotary Clubs from Southeastern Wisconsin. Jeannine asked a young patient what grade he was going to attend that year. The boy answered that he would be working in the sugar cane fields since his family depended upon his income and school cost too much money.

Disheartened by his answer, Jeannine asked local parents how much it would cost to provide transportation, books and uniforms to a child wishing to continue his or her education. A whopping $160 was the answer. With that, Jeannine created the Oliveros Scholarship Fund, awarding students who applied the opportunity for a beca, a scholarship.

The Scholarship team

This year, 32 students were required to meet with Jeannine and her board. They needed to show a passing report card and demonstrate their desire to continue studying in order to retain their becas. Other students lined the hallway at Nari’s, hoping to be among the 28 other fortunate students who would be chosen for the new school year. In all, the Fund would support 60 students at $160 for the year. Two high school graduates were also awaiting word to know whether they would get a $5,000 university scholarship, which they did.

As the American team left Guatemala, they learned for the third consecutive year that teachers were on strike and did not start the school year as scheduled. The source of the strike was the same as it was in years past – there was no promise of textbooks, papers and pencils with which to conduct classes. Teachers were holding out for the government to provide the tools they needed to teach. Likely, as in past years, the government would finally give in to more provisions, though sparse, and the teachers would return to their classrooms.

As talk here bubbles about academic accountability and the discourse about how to improve our imperfect education system becomes heated, it seems to me we should take a breath and see the world from a fresh perspective. Yes, things are imperfect. Yes, education – particularly for our most vulnerable children – must improve. But we are the fortunate ones, who live in a country that requires education for all children and seeks to provide it.

Others look toward the day when that, too, might be in their future.

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