In western Guatemala, a new model for education and job training is opening doors for young people in tobacco-growing communities.
“For 30 years, we have been waiting for this project and, thank God, it has become a reality,” said Mr. Angel Cardona from the Municipality of San José de la Máquina, at the 2016 inauguration of an ECLT supported teleschool, which offers classes via television, so teens can continue their education even if their community doesn’t have secondary school teachers.
Better education and job-skills training have been priorities for ECLT in Guatemala since 2013 when the Foundation began a project in 2 rural communities where tobacco is grown. US Department of Labour statistics on Guatemala confirm that one in every 15 children is in child labour and lack of secondary public schools mean that young people find themselves without a high school education or the skills to find decent work.
To combat this, ECLT has developed the innovative “La Máquina Model” for market-driven youth employment training, working closely with the Government of Guatemala, local communities, and our partner Defensa de los Niños Internacional (DNI Costa Rica). ECLT’s project not only focuses on schools and job skills but also provides child labour training for key local actors, like community leaders, teachers and technicians from tobacco companies that work with farmers, so that they can help families get kids out of fields and into classrooms.
Now over 100 children and teens are taking secondary school or job training classes, receiving school uniforms or supplies, or participating in afterschool programmes. The project also provides needed materials like desks, TV screens, computers, internet access and electricity to make sure the students have a safe and pleasant environment to learn.
This has made a real difference to students like Marta who said, “What started as a dream has turned into a reality for all of us. My case is like many others. I had left my studies for more than seven years and I never thought I was going to be able to continue since we didn't have the resources, but with the project you have given to us, I am back in school again.”
Scaling up: a blueprint for success in La Máquina and beyond
To make the project sustainable, the ECLT Foundation has not worked alone. Close collaboration with stakeholders, like local leaders, parents, farmers, companies, and the government, has been key to develop a model that can be easily replicated by other rural communities.
The next step is to go beyond La Máquina. The ECLT Foundation and DNI Costa Rica signed an agreement to continue work with the Guatemalan Ministry of Labour, so that the “La Máquina Model” can become a blueprint to improve opportunities for thousands of young people throughout Guatemala and beyond.
“We know that your goals are the same as ours: endeavour to make our dreams come true so that the boys and girls of tomorrow don't find themselves in need of work." - Lester, a student enrolled in secondary school.
Find out more about ECLT’s work in Guatemala at www.eclt.org/impact/guatemala
Originally printed in the International Tobacco Growers Association's "Tobacco Courier"