It’s never too late to learn!
That’s one lesson that mothers of sponsored children taught Diego Felipe Coj Guarchaj, a CFCA staff member in Guatemala who has worked with CFCA for 13 years.
It began in 2007, when CFCA staffers started a literacy program in the town of Nahuala for mothers who wanted to learn how to read and write.
CFCA scholars taught the mothers as part of their community service project.
In 2008 more mothers wanted to learn, so the CFCA office in Nahuala contacted Guatemala’s national committee for literacy, a government-run institution that helps people finish their primary education.
In 2011 more than 75 mothers graduated from primary school with that literacy program.
Several of these mothers expressed a desire to continue their education, so the CFCA office encouraged them to apply for CFCA scholarships.
In 2012, Diego said 23 mothers and two fathers are now CFCA scholars. Classes include natural science, social studies, math, computers and writing.
“Twenty-three of the students are in seventh grade, one is in eighth grade, and one mother is in her first year of high school,” Diego said.
(Related link: Read more about the value of education for sponsored children in Guatemala.)
In a country where only 15.6 percent of the female population is educated to at least a secondary level of schooling (think junior high), according to the Human Development Index, the mothers’ achievements show their perseverance despite tremendous challenges.
Interview with Juana, CFCA scholar and mother of two sponsored children, Sandra and Byron
Before getting a CFCA scholarship, did you ever go to school?
My parents were able to send me to primary school. I finished sixth grade, but then I got married, and that was the end of my education. I was 17.
Why is this education important to you?
I took the decision to go back to school because I believe this is the only way in which I can aspire for a better life with my children.
What does your scholarship help pay for?
I receive $25 a month. With this money I am able to pay for the monthly school tuition and school supplies.
I also help by embroidering designs on skirts. People pay me about $5.50 for this work, and it takes me around three days to finish a whole skirt.
What do you enjoy most about these classes?
I like attending classes; most of us mothers who have a scholarship with CFCA are in the same room because most of us are in seventh grade.
So we are able to socialize about personal things, and we also support one another with things we do not quite understand from school. I think we have been able to form a community of solidarity.
Which is your favorite class?
Social studies, because we discuss things like women’s rights, children’s rights and other important issues in society.
Have you faced any challenges in going back to school?
The challenge is that we are mothers, and that brings along much responsibility with our children.
After we are done taking care of their daily needs, then we are able to grab our notebooks and do our homework or maybe study for a test.
So we are the last to go to bed, and then in the morning we are the first ones to be up.
Our financial situation is also a challenge. The scholarship is the only way we can continue going to school.
What are some achievements you’re most proud of?
I am proud to be a role model for my children. They are very proud of their mother, and they encourage me to not give up. My daughter, Sandra, once said to me, “You must fight, Mommy.”
Sandra and I are in the same grade [seventh grade]; we take the same subjects and I am proud to be able to solve some of her questions.
Well, actually [laughing], she solves a lot more of my questions, especially with math.
Anything else you would like to add?
My dream is to become a professional nurse. I think there are good employment opportunities for this type of work, and I would also enjoy serving my community.
Interview with Diego, CFCA staff member in Nahuala, Guatemala
How do the mothers take care of their children during classes?
Three of the mothers take their young children to school with them. Mothers who have older children usually leave them at home, and the children are usually cared for by their older siblings, grandparents or other relatives.
What are particular challenges they face that other students may not have?
I believe their biggest challenges are their responsibilities at home with their husbands and children.
They have a lot of work and in spite of that, they have decided to continue their education.
In our society women are typically expected to stay at home, and any attempt to change that will require much courage and determination from them. So these mothers are faced with all these pressures.
Unfortunately many of these mothers must also deal with the alcohol addictions of their husbands, so this is another challenge for them.
How have the mothers progressed as students?
We need to be patient with them because their minds are not exclusively focused on school.
We are constantly checking their progress and offering support with extra tutoring by our CFCA staff or with other CFCA scholars.
We are happy to see the mothers encourage one another as well.
Computers and math are two of the more difficult subjects for them.
Most of the mothers were scared to touch a computer; we invited them to come to the CFCA office to practice, and this helped.
Our staff is challenged to keep them all motivated because we do not want them to drop out.