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Guatemala is located in Central America. According to the year 2004 estimates, Guatemala has a total population of 12.7 million people, with Guatemala City alone having a population of 2.66 million people. The country’s GDP is estimated to be US $ 23.3 billion, with per capita GNI being US $ 1740. It is important to note that the country’s income distribution is on the third place among the most unequal in the world. In this regard, 58% of the whole population survives on less than US $ 2 on daily basis. In fact, more than 20% of the entire population lives in an abject poverty. In education, Guatemala experiences a low literacy level of 70.6% which is much less compared to America’s 99% and Cuba’s 99.8%. According to the United Nation’s definition, a country is said to be free of illiteracy, if the illiteracy level is below 4%. This implies that Guatemala cannot be regarded as a literate state, since it fails to meet this definition. Besides, the enrollment level in primary school is 95% with an attendance rate of 78% and a completion rate of 60%. In secondary level education, the enrollment remains low at 38% with an attendance rate of 23% and a completion rate of 10.2%. In the last three decades, Guatemala has been characterized by political unrest and civil wars. The most famous war erupted in 1980s and lasted for more than a decade and ended in 1996. Due to the war and economic hardships, Guatemala has contributed the most to immigration to the USA. However, immigration to the U.S. can partly be attributed to the frequent natural disasters that the country faces.
The law of the land states that every citizen has a right to education. Moreover, the law obliges the government to provide equitable education to all citizens. According to the law, education is also viewed as a tool of creating and promoting democracy and justice in the society. In this regard, the Guatemala government has dedicated itself to the providing of education to its citizens. This can be viewed from the fact that in the year 2007 the government expenditure on education formed 17 % of the total budgetary allocations. This was equivalent to 2.6 % of the country’s GDP. Despite these efforts, Guatemala cannot be claimed to have equity in terms of access to education. This simply means that citizens do not have equal access to educational facilities. Disparities in access to education can be analyzed from two perspectives: first from gender differences point of view and second from rural versus urban inequity.
Different Access in Terms of Gender
In Guatemala, people have different access to education on the basis of gender. Similar to the general inequity trend in the world, males have more access to education than females in Guatemala. The society seems to embrace the dogma that the role of women is to perform family duties while males should seek for economic power. When analyzing the gender gap in education, it is important to note that boys spend more time at school: they study for 11 years while girls just 10 years. Educationists and economists argue that educating the girl children would be the best option for fighting poverty. However, the access to education by a girl child remains hindered by social duties viz. cooking and weaving, that girls are supposed to perform.
The disparity in access to education between males and females can be best illustrated by considering educational data in the country. In the year 2008 for instance, while the literacy level for females was 68.7 %, it was 79.5% for males. Furthermore, the enrollment level in primary education stood at 93% for females and 97% for males. Finally, the enrollment level in secondary education was recorded as 37% for females and 40% for males. In fact, female enrollment in 2008 was considered to be the lowest in all Latin American countries. Besides, the retention rate for females is considered to be much lower than that for males. This is because at a certain age, girls are forced to drop out of school in order to perform other social duties.
Rural versus Urban Inequity in Access to Education
In Guatemala, educational disparities can also be viewed in the context of access in both rural and urban areas. In this regard, it is important to note that majority of the Guatemala’s population live in rural areas. The trend has been that urban dwellers have more access to educational facilities than rural dwellers. The analysis of access disparities between rural and urban areas is multifaceted in that it can be supported by literacy data for both indigenous and non-indigenous people ad for males and females in rural and urban areas. The urban literacy level for non-indigenous females is 86% while in rural areas the rate stands at 62%. For indigenous females the literacy level is 55% in urban areas, and 35% in rural areas. For males the literacy rate for non-indigenous people is 70% in rural areas and 91% in urban areas. Furthermore, the literacy level for indigenous males stands at 58% in rural areas and 75 % in urban areas.
The above analysis is comprehensive in that it shows that disparities in access to educational facilities exist in terms of regions: rural or urban, gender: male or female and origin: indigenous or non-indigenous. To summarize the above data, one can simply say that males have more access to education than females, rural inhabitants have less access to education than their urban counterparts and finally, non-indigenous people have more access to education than indigenous people (Fried 17).
Is Education valued by all?
Empirical educational literature suggests that different people in Guatemala perceive education differently; education seems to be more important to some people while it is not so essential to others (Ebaugh 57). The existing data analyzes this phenomenon only from two points of view: gender and location. While earlier discussion implies that females’ access to education is hindered by the society, different data depicts that in Guatemala, males value education more than females. Many schools report that male students work harder and indeed perform better than female students, even when they are subjected to the same circumstances. Furthermore, education seems to be more valued in urban areas than in rural areas (Sheehan 31). Researchers have also revealed that educational facilities like libraries and schools are more equipped and advanced in urban areas than in rural areas. In this regard, major institutions of learning viz. universities are located in urban areas.
There is an urgent need of reviewing educational facilities like libraries in Guatemala. It is important to note that library materials especially books are very expensive, hence, most of the poor people cannot afford them. When the poor are faced with an allocation problem between food and education, they choose to forego education. There is, therefore, a need to establish more public libraries especially in rural areas. This move will make reading an exciting experience for people. Furthermore, the move will facilitate diffusion of knowledge thereby creating a more literate society. However, it is important to equip such libraries with modern technologies like the Internet. The Internet enables libraries to play a fundamental role in educational ecosystem by facilitating research (Fischer 23).