According to UNICEF, one in four Guatemalan children between the ages of five and fourteen are forced to perform labor. Unfortunately, because of the high rate of child labor many children and teenagers can’t spend their time and energy learning and getting an education. Getting an education and helping children’s minds to develop is important to their success and future independence.
There are many reasons that so many children are forced into hard labor rather than going to school. One of the biggest reasons why is because their families need the income. Primary level education is public and free throughout most of Guatemala. But despite this, some families are too poor for their children to spend time in a classroom rather than in the fields. This becomes an even more difficult decision when children reach a secondary school because it now must be paid for at a private school. In addition, older children can earn more money which makes it even more tempting to send them to work rather than school.
Also, not everyone in Guatemala sees the value of education and some parent’s don’t feel that it would be worth their children’s time or the sacrifice the family would have to make. This way of thinking especially limits education for girls whose parents decide she only needs to know how to complete domestic duties and house hold chores. Gratefully not everyone agrees with this mentality and there are families who suffer economically but will still make every possible sacrifice to try to help their children get and education. No matter how hard they must work.
Breaking the Cycle
Elvis Osorio is one of these examples. Elvis completed his last year of primary school and was very disappointed because he though he would not continue his education. His family did not have money to register him for junior high. Elvis was noticed by the Yuda Bands Program as a child in need and who had every desire to continue his school and work hard at it. Since receiving a scholarship to be sponsored to study, Elvis has enrolled in Junior High and is performing well. Despite his schooling now being paid for, Elvis must still work hard to help provide for his family. Elvis is one of 3 children. His Father is sick and has a week spine and lungs because of an accident he had at his work. Because of this Elvis has had to begin working and now labors Monday to Friday as a brick layer. Elvis has now become the provider for his family at 13 years old.
Elvis lost the opportunity to enjoy his childhood, but thinking of his future, fights hard not to lose his opportunity of an education. Elvis travels 45 minutes on Saturdays to attend school. He is studying the 7th grade. He uses Sundays and evenings after exhausting work to complete his many homework assignments Elvis is an exceptional boy and has managed to complete his schoolwork with good grades and even studies the drums and piano and participates in a religious group. Elvis said, “Life has been kind of hard for me, but I like to study and I will work so hard to help myself progress and get ahead.” Elvis’s parents said that Yuda Bands has been a blessing for them and that without this support it would have been impossible for Elvis to study.
Elvis is not our only youth whose economic situation forces him to work and study. There are several students who have this trial and yet they all shine and work hard to reach their goals! Yuda Bands appreciates and admires these students who sacrifice for and value their education.
Gricelda is a Yuda Bands Director in Guatemala and former student from the Yuda Bands scholarship program. She is extremely organized and successful. Among other responsibilities she helps coordinate monthly interviews with all of the students and their parents, translates for Skype video calls, and participates in organizing community service projects. She is a great athlete and is an amazing daughter who takes great care of her mother. She is also a part time high school teacher at Colegio El Valle in San Martin, Jilotepeque Guatemala.