I am Dinia Reina Caal Oxom, and I was born on September 20, 1999, in the village of Gancho Caoba II, Cobán, Alta Verapaz, where I currently live. I am from a humble family of eleven members, and my father is a farmer. I am the fifth of the children. All of us brothers and sisters are dedicated to studying and helping my parents with farming.  I grew up with the love of my parents; they want the best for us. 

When I was 11 years old my mother decided to sell clothes to help support the family and educate the children, because what my father earned in agriculture was no longer enough. So I helped her on my days off to carry her suitcase, because she went from house to house to offer the clothing for sale.  But there came a year when she no longer sold clothing, so then I helped my father clear the cornfield among other things, so I grew up selling and working in agriculture, in whatever way I could.

In 2007 I began my study in primary school in my community. I studied from Monday to Friday, and on Saturday and Sunday I helped my mother to sell. When I finished fourth grade I could not enter the next grade because my parents could no longer buy my school supplies. During that year I dedicated my time to selling with my mother to be able to enter school the next year, and that is how I was able to continue. I finished elementary school in 2013, and in 2014 I entered the basico [middle school] level at the Instituto Maya Comunitaria K’amolb’e.  However, it was very difficult for me because I had to pay registration and tuition, so I entered an establishment where they taught for fifteen days and then had fifteen days off. On the days off I continued helping my mother sell, and that is how I was able to continue with my studies; I finished the basico level in 2016. In 2017 I decided to continue my studies in the same school. I started studying for the career of intercultural bilingual early childhood education, and I graduated in 2019. After I decided to study at a university, I began to major in Secondary Education with a Specialty in Mathematics and Physics. I decided to study that because there are young people I know who stopped their studies because they are afraid of mathematics. Next year I want to finish the profesorado [two-year teaching degree] and continue towards getting the licenciatura [bachelor’s degree] in 2023, in order to help young people with their learning in mathematics and physics, through workshops and classes. Also in the future I want to help children with their learning through classes during their breaks, because many times their teachers do not have the ability to teach them adequately, since they do not have the training to teach in those areas.  That’s why I want to prepare myself, to be able to help my community in the future. I also want to help my brothers who are still studying and need my support, because many times teachers give them worksheets without explanation. I also want to motivate them to continue with their studies, since education is essential in this world.

Education System Glossary

Since the Guatemalan government only funds education to the end of elementary school, it is not all that common, especially in the rural areas, for someone to graduate from middle school. Thus, these students are awarded an actual degree, called the Basico, which carries some weight when looking for a job, etc.

High school comes in a variety of flavors in Guatemala. All of course are private, and there are seemingly as many curriculums as there are schools. Some high schools focus on particular careers, such as teaching, accounting, surveying, etc. Usually, it takes 3-4 years to complete, and they are awarded with a certificate of competency at the end. In teaching, the certificate entitles one to teach at the elementary school level only. More academically-oriented high schools have a curriculum similar to US schools, which includes language arts, math, science, history, etc. These typically require 4-5 years to complete, and graduates are awarded the Diversificado degree, which is required if the student wishes to continue their education at the University level. This is the degree that most GSSG-supported high school students are pursuing.

The University system in Guatemala is like the high school system, in that there are many degrees, and many ways to get a degree. There is only one public university, the University of San Carlos, and about a dozen private universities. Like high school, students can decide early to specialize in a particular field, and after 2-3 years, graduate with a “tecnico” degree. In education, this degree awards them the title of “Profesor”, and qualifies them to teach all the way through high school. For those wishing to go further in Education or other fields, there is the “Licenciatura” degree, which is awarded after four years of study in one’s major plus an additional year researching and writing a thesis that addresses some national problem in Guatemala. So far, three GSSG students have been awarded their Licenciatura degree, with several more hoping to have theirs by next year.

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